Iraqi defense minister: US troops leaving in four weeks

Iraq’s prime minister and defense minister on Wednesday reaffirmed the country’s stance that U.S. troops relocating from Syria’s northeastern border into the Kurdish region of Iraq are not welcome long-term and won’t be staying long.

“We have [already] issued an official statement saying that and are taking all international legal measures,” Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said in a statement Wednesday, according to Reuters.

Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari told The Associated Press that the U.S. troops must the be out of Iraq within four weeks. 

Both leaders’ remarks came after U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper made a visit to Bagdad to discuss the troop shift. The meeting between the two countries comes after a statement released by Iraq Tuesday said the government would not accept a prolonged stay by U.S. troops. 

Esper previously said the U.S. troops will be staying in the region to prevent an ISIS resurgence. While he didn’t have a timeline of this process, he noted that the he did not see keeping the troops in Iraq “interminably,” the AP reports.

However, al-Shammari told the news wire on Wednesday that Esper had agreed on four weeks as the window to leave Iraq. 

Esper’s trip to Iraq also follows Turkey and Russia’s agreement Tuesday that will see a combination of Turkish and Russian forces deployed across nearly the entirety of Syria’s northeastern border — taking the place of the withdrawn U.S troops.

President Trump, who has faced bipartisan criticism over moving troops out of Syria, announced Wednesday that his administration would be lifting sanctions on Turkey after Ankara agreed to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters the U.S. considers a key ally in the region.

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