This morning, a leaked, unsigned letter from Brigadier General William H. Seely III, made its way around social media. The letter appeared to inform Iraqi officials that the U.S. was pulling our troops out of their country. “Sir, in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” the letter read.
Pentagon Correspondent Lara Seligman tweeted about the letter, saying U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper “did not explicitly say the letter itself was a fake.” In her next tweet, Seligman wrote that Army General Mark Milley told her “he just got off the phone with Gen. Mckenzie of CENTCOM and the “bottom line” is that the “letter was a mistake.” In her next tweet, Seligman added that General Milley claims that General McKenzie used “word that were a little more colorful than ‘mistake.'”
Milley telling it like it is on his conversation with Gen. McKenzie: "He used other words that were a little more colorful than mistake."
— Lara Seligman (@laraseligman) January 6, 2020
NYPost reports – Defense Secretary Mark Esper later denied that the US had made a decision about a troop withdrawal, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, called the letter “a draft’’ and “a mistake.’’
“There’s been no decision whatsoever to leave Iraq,” Esper insisted to reporters at the Pentagon.
The military chiefs’ comments came after the letter — unsigned but bearing the typed name of US Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William H. Seely III, the commanding general of Task Force Iraq — was leaked to media outlets.
Before Esper’s denials, the sudden announcement was an apparent about-face from the position taken by President Trump a day earlier, when he told reporters aboard Air Force One that he would slap tough sanctions on the country if its government followed through with a resolution from parliament to force US troops out.
The resolution passed Sunday was in retaliation for a US drone strike in Baghdad that killed a top Iranian military commander.
“If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis. We will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame,” Trump said.
“If there’s any hostility, that they do anything we think is inappropriate, we are going to put sanctions on Iraq, very big sanctions on Iraq,” said Trump as he returned to Washington after spending the holidays at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.