US military officials leading a joint task force told Iraqi government officials Monday that they are preparing to pull troops from Iraq, following the country’s parliament vote on Sunday to eject foreign troops from the country.
“In due deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, [we are] repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement,” Marine Brigadier General William H. Seely III wrote in a letter.
On Sunday, Iraq’s parliament passed a resolution calling on Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to revoke Iraq’s invitation to host US troops, which have helped the country retake control over territory lost to the Islamic State in 2014. The US currently has about 5,000 troops in Iraq.
“The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory,” the resolution read.
The nonbinding resolution had overwhelming support from Shiite lawmakers, although Sunni and Kurdish members of parliament boycotted the special session.
The vote was a response to the US assassination last week of Major General Qassem Soleimani, a top-ranking Iranian military commander who was responsible for Tehran’s proxies in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. The US military targeted Soleimani with airstrikes on Baghdad’s airport, a move Shiite politicians in Iraq said violated Iraqi sovereignty.
The vote did not legally require the withdrawal of troops because the parliamentary vote would have had to trigger a meeting by the country’s Cabinet, which cannot meet because there is currently only an acting prime minister and acting Cabinet.
But US military officials likely expect a more official order soon.
“We respect your sovereign decision to order our departure,” Seely wrote in the letter Monday.
The withdrawal would not necessarily mean the complete end of the U.S. military presence in Iraq, just the withdrawal of the joint task force that’s specifically committed to fighting ISIS.
A spokesperson for the joint task force did not immediately respond to a request for more clarification on the announcement.
After Sunday’s vote, Trump threatened “sanctions like they’ve never seen before” against Iraq if the country forced the U.S. to withdraw its troops.
This article has been updated with more details on the parliament vote and withdrawal.