Iraq's outgoing prime minister says United States troops must leave to avoid crisis


The US will not pull its troops out of Iraq the country's Defence Secretary has said, despite a letter from a US general there appearing to suggest it would.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday insisted that the Trump administration's policy in Iraq had not changed and that the American military would remain in the country - despite a leaked draft of a letter from a top United States military commander in Iraq saying the opposite.

The US was aware enough that the Army was drafting a letter to Iraq affirming the troop pullout.

Tehran told the Iraqi Prime Minister that only locations where USA forces were present would be targeted without specifying the locations, Adil Abd Al-Mahdi's spokesman said in his statement. Abdul-Mahdi says the only problem they had was that the English and Arabic versions were not identical and they want clarification of which was right.

A CNN report pointed out that "the timing of the incident was unfortunate, coming as military officials, along with other members of President Trump's national security team, continue to face questions about the killing of commander Soleimani".

"There's no signed letter, so there may be people trying to create confusion, but what I said a few times now, our policy has not changed".

The statement also said Abd Al-Mahdi was in talks with domestic and foreign partners to prevent "open war".

Iran has long viewed the USA presence on its doorstep, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as a threat.

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The attack came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to join forces to "respond" to a deadly American drone strike last week outside the Baghdad airport.

The letter appeared to have been sent by Brigadier General William H Seely, head of the United States military's task force in Iraq, to Abdul Amir, the deputy director of Combined Joint Operations.

It's not entirely clear who leaked the letter.

The letter said U.S. troops would be "repositioning over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement".

Iranian state television said Iran had fired 15 missiles at USA targets in Iraq early on Wednesday.

The semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq's leaders said the coalition's presence was vital for fighting Islamic State and called on its member states to stay.

A German government spokesperson said on Monday that Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to Iraqi caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Monday about the Iraqi parliamentary draft law calling on foreign troops to leave the country, but no details were given. "If we are late, then they will tell us that we are late".

"It (the draft letter) was sent over to some key Iraqi military guys in order to get things coordinated for air movements, etc".

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