The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Defense Secretary Esper says U.S. has made no decision to leave Iraq

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to Tehran's streets Jan. 6 for the funeral of Qasem Soleimani, a military commander who was killed by a U.S. strike. (Video: Reuters)

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Monday that the United States has not made any decision to leave Iraq, shortly after the U.S. military said in a letter to Iraqi officials that U.S. forces would be relocating “to prepare for onward movement.”

On Sunday, Iraqi lawmakers passed a nonbinding resolution calling for foreign troops to withdraw.

In the letter, released Monday, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William H. Seely III said that U.S. forces “respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.” A U.S. military official confirmed the letter’s authenticity.

But on a day of confusion, Esper said he could not confirm the authenticity of the letter because he had seen it only after it was leaked, adding that it is “inconsistent with where we are right now.”