The Iraqi government “understood that there would be a response after the deaths of our soldiers,” Patel said.
That contradicted National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby’s
comments to reporters during a call on Friday, in which he said, “We did inform the Iraqi government prior to the strikes occurring.”
Asked about the discrepancy on Monday, Kirby said that his comment was inaccurate.
“I responded with information that I had been provided at the time. It was not as specific as it could have been, and I regret any confusion caused,” Kirby said. “That said, we had made no secret — both to Iraqi officials and in public channels — that we would respond. And, we did, in fact, officially notify Iraq, as appropriate with standard procedure.”
In recent weeks, talks about American forces withdrawing from Iraq and Syria have increased, coinciding with troops in the region coming under attack from Iran-backed militants more frequently.
In early January, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani privately told American officials that he wants to negotiate retaining U.S. forces in the country despite previously saying that he would begin the process of removing them,
POLITICO reported. Formal discussions between Washington and Baghdad about the future of the 2,500-strong U.S. military mission in Iraq began recently, the Pentagon
announced late last month.
Meanwhile, Middle East experts have said there are internal discussions about removing the roughly 900 troops from Syria — a claim the administration has denied. No withdrawal order from President Joe Biden is imminent or headed to his desk,
five U.S. officials told POLITICO.