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6 Jan, 2020 20:04

US coalition to leave Iraq ‘in due deference to sovereignty’ – general

US coalition to leave Iraq ‘in due deference to sovereignty’ – general

Citing a vote in the Iraqi parliament, the head of US forces in Iraq has informed the government in Baghdad that the US-led coalition will be leaving the country, in a letter that contradicts President Trump's earlier statements.

LATEST: ‘Not leaving Iraq!’ Pentagon chief clarifies ‘poorly worded’ US withdrawal plan sent by ‘mistake’

“In due deference to the sovereignty” of Iraq, the Combined Joint Task Force Iraq will be “repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” Marine General William H. Seely III wrote in a letter to the Iraqi Defense Ministry on Monday, which has surfaced online.

“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” Seely wrote, explaining that the process will involve increased helicopter traffic into and out of Baghdad’s “green zone,” mainly during the night-time, with the Coalition seeking to “minimize and mitigate” disturbances to civilians.

There was initially some confusion about the letter's authenticity, with the Pentagon declining to confirm it was real However, US Army public affairs officer Rick Dickson stated shortly after the news broke that the letter is "official and accurate."

The Iraqi parliament adopted a resolution on Sunday seeking to “end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil,” prompted by last week’s US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and a number of Iraqi Shia militia officials at the Baghdad International Airport. 

US President Donald Trump responded by threatening sanctions and saying the US will not leave until the Iraqis “pay us back” for an airbase that he said cost billions of dollars to build.

Also on rt.com Trump threatens Iraq with ‘very big sanctions’ unless it pays back BILLIONS for an airbase if US troops are forced to withdraw

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo likewise dismissed the non-binding resolution, saying that he was “confident that the Iraqi people want the United States to continue to be there to fight the counterterror campaign.”

The US-led coalition forces were sent to Iraq in 2014, to help the government in Baghdad confront Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorists that had taken a significant portion of Iraqi territory, all of which has since been liberated. 

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