BAGHDAD (AP) — The Latest on U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper's visit to Baghdad (all times local):
Iraq's defense minister has said after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper that American forces withdrawing from Syria to Iraq will leave the country within four weeks.
Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari made the remarks to The Associated Press on Wednesday, following a meeting with Esper, who arrived in Baghdad a day to discuss the troops.
He says that the American troops crossing from Syria are "transiting" in Iraq and will then head either to Kuwait, Qatar or the United States.
Iraq's military said Tuesday that American troops leaving northeastern Syria don't have permission to stay in Iraq in a statement that appeared to contradict Esper, who has said that all U.S. troops leaving Syria would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group from Iraq to prevent its resurgence in the region.
Esper had said earlier on Wednesday that he plans to talk with Iraqi leaders about the matter.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has arrived in Baghdad on a visit aimed at working out details about the future of American troops that are withdrawing from Syria to neighboring Iraq.
Wednesday's meetings at the Iraqi Defense Ministry comes a day after Iraq's military said American troops leaving northeastern Syria don't have permission to stay in Iraq.
The Iraqi statement appeared to contradict Esper, who has said that all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and that the military would continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence in the region.
Esper then said that he plans to talk to Iraqi leaders to work out the details, adding that the U.S has no plans to have those troops stay in Iraq "interminably."