In a letter seen by Reuters, the commanding general of Task Force Iraq said "...as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.”
When asked about the letter, Esper told Pentagon reporters “I don’t know what that letter is... We’re trying to find out where that’s coming from, what that is. But there’s been no decision made to leave Iraq. Period.”
General Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also scrambled to correct the record, calling the letter a "poorly worded" draft document and stressed there was no withdrawal being planned.
The United States has about 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
On Sunday, Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution calling for all foreign troops to leave the country, following a U.S. drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani on Iraqi soil.
The letter, which was addressed to the Iraqi Defence Ministry and signed by a U.S. general, said: “We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure.”
It also said coalition forces would be using helicopters to evacuate.
On Monday night, several helicopters could be heard flying over Baghdad. It was not immediately clear if this was a related development.