400 Marines Stationed in Syria Ordered Home


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 400 Marines Stationed in Syria Ordered Home

A drone captures footage of Raqqa, Syria. More than 400 Marines who have operated in the country since September are leaving.

Just over a month after the liberation of Raqqa – the Syrian city that was once the self–proclaimed capital of the Islamic State group – more than 400 Marines who operated in the country are leaving, according to a statement released Thursday by officials for the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, in Iraq and Syria.

"With the city liberated and ISIS on the run, the unit has been ordered home," the statement said, adding that the Marines will be leaving with their M777 howitzers.

The Pentagon was unable to provide any specific numbers regarding the artillery equipment that will be leaving with the Marines.

Gen. Jonathan Braga, director of operations for the Combined Joint Task Force, said that the Marines' departure is a "sign of real progress in the region" and that combat forces are being drawn down "where it makes sense."

The Marine unit is from the 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment and was part of a short-term deployment. The 400 Marines arrived in Syria Sept. 15 and provided artillery support to coalition forces, including the Syrian Democratic Forces who led the offensive to retake Raqqa.

Units intended to replace the Marines coming home "have been called off." According to the Pentagon, a little more than 500 U.S. troops will remain in Syria after the Marine unit leaves.

ISIS forces took control of the city in June 2014 and more than 2,500 terrorist fighters were based in Raqqa when SDF forces began their offensive on the city June 6.

The liberation of Raqqa was officially announced by the Combined Joint Task Force on Oct. 20. In an October Pentagon press briefing, Army Maj. Gen. James Jarrard, a top military commander of the coalition, said that 400 SDF fighters were killed and over 900 wounded in Raqqa.

Despite the city's liberation and Marines returning home, military officials for the coalition have said that their mission against ISIS in Iraq and Syria is ongoing and they will continue to work with local forces as Raqqa rebuilds.

The SDF forces remained in control of the city at the time of its liberation. According to Jarrard, the SDF will shift control over to the Raqqa Internal Security Force, a local partner force created to establish security in the city, "in the near future."

This transfer of security began on Nov. 20 when the Raqqa Internal Security Force, which is under the supervision of the Raqqa Civil Council, took control over three neighborhoods in Raqqa.

"With the RISF gradually assuming the security mission in Raqqah … we continue to have Raqqawis securing and governing Raqqawis," Jarrard said in a Nov. 20 statement, calling this first handover "an important step."

Copyright 2017 U.S. News & World Report

By: U.S. News %26 World Report

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