January 7, 2020 / 5:35 PM / 20 days ago

Iraq has received U.S. letter regarding troop withdrawal - PM

FILE PHOTO: Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi speaks during a symbolic funeral ceremony of Major General Ali al-Lami, who commands the Iraqi Federal Police's Fourth Division, who was killed in Salahuddin, in Baghdad, Iraq October 23, 2019. REUTERS/Khalid al-Mousily/File Photo

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi military joint operations command has received a letter from the U.S. army concerning a possible withdrawal of its troops from the country, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said on Tuesday.

The letter’s English and Arabic language versions were not identical so Iraq had requested clarifications from Washington, Abdul Mahdi told a televised cabinet meeting.

He spoke two days after Iraqi lawmakers, with his support, voted for a resolution demanding a removal of all foreign forces from Iraq following the killing of Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad airport. His death has raised fears of a broader regional war.

U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Monday that a leaked letter from the U.S. military to Iraq that created impressions of an imminent U.S. withdrawal was a poorly worded draft document meant only to underscore an increased movement of forces.

“Poorly worded, implies withdrawal. That’s not what’s happening,” General Mark Milley said.

Abdul Mahdi said if this letter was indeed a draft as U.S. officials say, then Washington should send another letter to clarify the situation.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that the United States had no plans to pull its troops out of Iraq following reports by Reuters and other media of an American military letter informing Iraqi officials about repositioning troops in preparation for leaving the country.

Foreign forces have been in Iraq mainly as part of a U.S.-led coalition that has trained and backed up Iraqi security forces against the threat of Islamic State militants.

Reporting by Ahmed Rasheed; Writing by Nayera Abdallah; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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