Washington, Jan 7 (IANS) The Pentagon has said that that there was no policy change regarding the presence of US troops in Iraq, after media reports said that American personnel were preparing to withdraw from the war-torn country.
“There has been no change in US policy with regard to our force presence in Iraq. We continue to consult with the Iraqi government regarding the defeat-IS mission and efforts to support the Iraqi Security Forces,” Pentagon Press Secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement on Monday.
Multiple media reports on Monday said that American forces were preparing to leave Iraq, citing a letter sent from William Seely, the commander of the US task force in Iraq, to the deputy director of the Iraqi Defence Ministry’s Combined Joint Operation in Baghdad, reports Xinhua news agency.
“In due deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR (Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve) will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” the letter said.
Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that the letter was a draft and a mistake, adding “that is not what’s happening”.
The development came a day after the Iraqi Parliament passed a non-binding resolution requiring the government to end the presence of American and other foreign forces in the country and prevent them from using Iraqi airspace and waters.
This was in response to the January 3 US drone attack that killed Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq’s paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces, near the Baghdad airport.
Following the attack, Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that US attacks “constitute a serious violation of Iraqi sovereignty and violate the conditions for the presence of the American forces in Iraq”.
Over 5,000 US troops are deployed in Iraq to support Iraqi forces in battles against the Islamic State, mainly providing training and advising for them.