Pentagon: “Onward Movement” Doesn’t Mean Withdrawal From Iraq

Which way are they going?Capt. Robyn Haake/Planetpix/Planet Pix via ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

The Washington Post got hold of a draft letter this afternoon addressed to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. It says that the US will be “repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” and ends by affirming that “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”

But what does it mean? Are we leaving Iraq? Or does the Pentagon wish to revise and extend its remarks?

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said during a briefing at the Pentagon that the United States has not made any decision to leave Iraq….Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the letter was a draft that the U.S. military sent to Iraqi military officials for coordination purposes but hasn’t been signed or finalized.

“That letter — it was a draft, it was a mistake, it was unsigned, it should not have been released,” Milley said. “And the first part of it, which says ‘repositioning forces over the course of the coming days to prepare for onward movement’ … [was] poorly worded, implies withdrawal. That is not what’s happening.

My guess is that the letter was meant as a way to call Iraq’s bluff. You want us to leave? Fine, we’ll leave. Then we all watch as the Iraqis panic and start begging us to stay. It’s all very Trumpish.

On the other hand, it doesn’t serve that purpose very well if we immediately turn around and say that it was all just a mistake and we’re not going anywhere.

On the third hand, maybe it was meant to call Iraq’s bluff, but then we panicked when the letter was leaked.

Who knows? What a mess.

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

REAL QUICK, REAL URGENT

Minority rule, corruption, disinformation, attacks on those who dare tell the truth: There is a direct line from what's happening in Russia and Ukraine to what's happening here at home. And that's what MoJo's Monika Bauerlein writes about in "Their Fight Is Our Fight" to unpack the information war we find ourselves in and share a few examples to show why the power of independent, reader-supported journalism is such a threat to authoritarians.

Corrupt leaders the world over can (and will) try to shut down the truth, but when the truth has millions of people on its side, you can't keep it down for good. And there's no more powerful or urgent argument for your support of Mother Jones' journalism right now than that. We need to raise about $450,000 to hit our online fundraising budget in these next few months, so please read more from Monika and pitch in if you can.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate