There has been “no change” in U.S. policy towards the troop presence in Iraq, a Pentagon spokeswoman said Monday, amid swirling reports of a troop pullout following the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general.
“There has been no change in U.S. policy with regard to our force presence in Iraq.
“We continue to consult with the Iraqi government regarding the defeat-ISIS mission and efforts to support the Iraqi Security Forces,” Pentagon spokeswoman Alyssa Farah said in a tweet.
The statement came shortly after multiple U.S. media outlets reported that a U.S. general in Iraq sent a letter to Iraqi military officials stating that U.S. troops will be relocating troops “to prepare for onward movement”.
“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” the letter reportedly said.
U.S. General Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon that the letter was a draft and “a mistake,” according to multiple U.S. media reports
Milley said that the letter was “poorly worded, implies withdrawal. That is not what’s happening.”
The future of more than 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq came a day after Iraq’s parliament voted in a non-binding resolution for ousting U.S. soldiers following the killing of the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
“We do not accept that Iraq becomes a scene to settle scores,” said Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi on Monday during a meeting with China’s ambassador in Baghdad.
Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution calling for an end to the presence of foreign troops linked to a U.S.-led alliance fighting Islamic State.
There are currently around 5,000 U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq.
Trump’s decision to kill move Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the deputy head of Iraq’s Muslim Shiite militia Hashd al-Shaabi, along with several other Iran-allied militiamen has sent shock waves throughout the Middle East.
Abdel-Mahdi said on Sunday steps were being worked out for the departure of foreign troops from the country.
“Iraqi officials in different departments are preparing a memorandum on the legal and procedural steps to implement the parliament’s decision on the foreign troops’ withdrawal,” Abdel-Mahdi’s office said.
U.S. President Donald Trump has by threatened Iraq with sanctions if there is “any hostility” regarding the demand for U.S. troops to leave.