“One is to help defend Iraq and two is to perform a counter-ISIS mission as we sort through the next steps,” he said, adding that the troop withdrawal would take “weeks not days.”

“Things could change between now and whenever we complete the withdrawal, but that’s the game plan right now.”

The Defense chief did not rule out the possibility of U.S. forces conducting counterterrorism missions from Iraq into Syria. He also reportedly said that he’d spoken with his Iraqi counterparts about the move, which will place more than 700 U.S. troops in western Iraq.