The U.S. has not planed to pull out militarily from Iraq, Defense Secretary Mark Esper told Pentagon reporters on Monday, “There’s been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period,” he told reporters.
The letter published yesterday on FRN was also cited by various other news agencies, was sent to Iraqi military by US Marine Corps Brigadier General William H Seely III, commanding general of Task Force Iraq. Seely said later yesterday that the letter was a poorly worded draft document meant to only underscore increased movement of forces.
“It (the draft letter) was sent over to some key Iraqi military guys in order to get things coordinated for air movements, etc. Then it went from that guy’s hands to another guy’s hands and then it went to your hands. Now, it’s a kerfuffle.”
But a letter that is sent to Iraqi ‘military guys’ was in fact sent to the Iraqi ministry of defense. In such form, it was not a draft, but bore the letterhead of the Joint Operations Command, and was authorized at the bottom by Seely himself.
Simultaneously, Esper’s chief of staff Eric Chewning, abruptly announced his resignation. Kevin Sweeney has also just resigned as Pentagon chief of staff after serving the defense secretary for two years.While there has been little said connecting these events, the direct relationship between these resignations and the ‘oopsy’ seems all but undeniable.
“There’s no decision to leave, nor did we issue any plans to leave or prepare to leave.”, Esper further told reporters.
Milley acknowledged that some language in the letter “implies withdrawal,” but said that ”is not what is happening.”
“The long and the short of it is, it’s an honest mistake,” he said, adding that he had just gotten off the phone with the U.S. commander in the Middle East, who explained the effort.
It would appear that Chewning and Sweeney are the heads that rolled for this ‘mistake’.
All in all, it does not appear as a mistake, but rather a reversal within the US plan – something seen with increasing regularity as the inter-oligarch conflict in the US has taken on a very public and visible dimension since the Obama administration. Since that time, the difference between Pentagon and CIA plans in the Syria and Iraq has been abundantly clear.
A further representation of this open conflict has been Trump policy at odds with what he and his supporters have termed the ‘deep state’, a useful phrase to refer to the unelected permanent administration governing the US – particularly its foreign policy.
Seely’s statement appears to say that the ‘mistake’ was made at a very low level, perhaps between ‘dictation takers’ – when the resignations connected to this ‘oopsy’ over the last 24 hours are very high level.