Future of US military presence in Iraq in question amid confusion in Washington

The Guardian | : US defence secretary says no decision made to evacuate despite letter to contrary as thousands gather in General Qassem Suleimani’s home town

The future of the US military presence in Iraq is in question amid scenes of confusion in Washington, as the Trump administration scrambled to respond to Iraqi demands for the troops to leave after last week’s assassination in Baghdad of Iran’s top general, Qassem Suleimani.

The US-led coalition taskforce fighting Isis in Iraq delivered a letter to the Iraqi defence ministry on Monday saying preparations would begin right away “to ensure that movement out of Iraq is conducted in a safe and efficient manner”.

But soon afterwards, the defence secretary, Mark Esper, told journalists in the Pentagon: “That letter is inconsistent with where we are right now” and insisted that no decision had been taken to evacuate Iraq. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Mark Milley, said the letter had been sent in error.

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