US troops have crossed into Iraq from Syria through the Sahela border crossing in the northern province of Dohuk, Reuters witnesses said on Monday.
Reuters video images showed armored vehicles carrying troops into Iraq, part of the US withdrawal from Syria. A Reuters cameraman saw more than 100 vehicles crossing.
An Iraqi Kurdish security source also told Reuters that US troops had crossed into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Sunday all US troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the American military will continue operations against ISIS. Esper said the troops going into Iraq will have two missions.
“One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps,” he said. “Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now.”
The US currently has more than 5,000 American forces in Iraq, under an agreement between the two countries. The US pulled its troops out of Iraq in 2011 when combat operations there ended, but they went back in after IS began to take over large swaths of the country in 2014. The number of American forces in Iraq has remained small due to political sensitivities in the country, after years of what some Iraqis consider US occupation during the war that began in 2003.
Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift about 1,000 troops from Syria into western Iraq.