Op-Ed: Letter to Iraqi PM contradicts Defense Minister on US withdrawal

Posted Jan 7, 2020 by Ken Hanly
General Mark Milley US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair said that the letter announcing that US troops would be withdrawing from Iraq wast just a draft and said that is not what is happening.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke to the press on his first day as Pentagon chief
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke to the press on his first day as Pentagon chief
Alastair Pike, AFP
Milley's position
A recent article
sets out the general's position: "Milley said he spoke with CENTCOM leadership on the matter, saying that the letter was being composed as a draft and was making the rounds at CENTCOM. It was not intended to be released. Milley added it was “poorly worded” because it implies withdrawal saying it was an “honest mistake.”"
However the letter had stated quite clearly that the US respected Iraqi's sovereign decision to order the US departure. The Iraqi parliament had passed a motion that all foreign troops be withdrawn from Iraq but it is not binding on the government. The letter conflicts with the US Defense Secretary Mark Esper's statement: “There’s been no decision whatsover to leave Iraq. There’s no decision to leave, nor did we issue any plans to leave or prepare to leave.” It is not clear how much if any say the US is willing to give Iraq as far as US troops staying in Iraq is concerned. However, the Iraqi PM Adel Abdul-Mahdi says he has a signed copy of the letter that General Milley says was an unsigned draft.
PM Mahdi's statement
On Tuesday Iraqi caretaker PM Adel Abdel Mahdi confirmed that he had received the draft letter described by General Milley that described steps the US military would take to move out of Iraq. In a televised cabinet meeting on Tuesday night Mahdi said he had received signed and translated copies at 8:00 PM local time (1700 GMT) on Monday.
Mahdi said the letter discussed troops redeploying with the intent to withdraw from Iraq. Mahdi said preliminary versions in Arabic and English involved a translator mistake and his office had requested a correction from the US military which was duly sent back to him. Mahdi said to Iraqi ministers: “It was an official letter written in such a manner. It’s not a piece of paper that fell off the printer or reached us by coincidence."
The Agence France Press (AFP) noted: "AFP received a copy of the letter late Monday and verified its authenticity with both US and Iraqi officials.In it, the head of Task Force-Iraq US Brigadier General William Seely informed his Iraqi counterparts that American troops were preparing to leave Iraq. Seely wrote the US-led coalition would “be repositioning forces in the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.”"
The US seems to have made serious mistakes in coordinating foreign policy with the Defense Minister saying one thing whereas the letter says the exact opposite. The US needs to make clear what policy is the correct one. The Iraqi PM should be asking for some explanation.