US defense secretary in Iraq to discuss troops leaving Syria

BAGHDAD (AP) — 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.”