Pentagon mistakenly releases draft memo promising withdrawal from Iraq

Kathryn Krawczyk

This isn't your standard Trump administration memo leak.

No, the memo released Monday that signifies the U.S's plan to exit Iraq is a full-fledged "mistake," Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley said more than an hour after it came out. It's a "draft" and "implies withdrawal," which "is not what happening," Milley said after the memo promised the opposite.

A memo from the U.S. to an Iraqi leader of the two countries' joint operations in Baghdad started circulating Monday afternoon. U.S. forces in Iraq would soon be "repositioning," "as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister," the letter from Brig. Gen. William Seely, U.S. director of Iraqi joint operations, read. "We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure," the letter concluded.

Given that Iraq's Parliament had just voted to expel U.S. forces from the country, the letter sounds like the Pentagon was quickly adhering to the decision. And according to The Washington Post reporter Mustafa Salim, the office of Iraq's prime minister also interpreted the letter that way — or at least willfully misinterpreted it — and then leaked it. But as Milley made clear even after some Pentagon officials verified the letter was sent, it was "unsigned" and "it should not have been released" in the first place.

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