The State Department has ordered all "non-emergency" U.S. government employees to leave Iraq right away.
The travel advisory specifically orders the departure of employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and consulate in Irbil (sometimes spelled Erbil), noting that "normal visa services will be temporarily suspended at both posts."
@StateDept has ordered the departure of non-emergency USG employees from Iraq, both at the Embassy in Baghdad and Consulate in Erbil. Additional information on this alert can be found on the U.S. Embassy website at U.S. Citizen Services. https://t.co/iX96dAkyhT— U.S. Embassy Baghdad (@USEmbBaghdad) May 15, 2019
Employees were urged to depart the country by commercial transportation as soon as possible and avoid U.S. facilities within Iraq.
It was not immediately clear what led to the order on Wednesday. The advisory instructs U.S. citizens not to travel to Iraq because of high risks of terrorism, kidnapping and armed conflict.
The State Department warns that "the U.S. government's ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Iraq is extremely limited."
The New York Times reported this week that sources said Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan presented an updated military plan last week — a plan that envisioned sending up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East in case of a move by Iran. It's not evident that President Trump has a desire to send so many U.S. troops to the region. Sources told the Times that the plan was ordered by those in line with national security adviser John Bolton, who is known for a hawkish stance toward Iran.