The Marine unit that was extended in Anbar province as part of the “surge” has handed over parts of its operating area to another Marine unit, officials said Wednesday.

The 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit has handed over responsibility for western Anbar to Task Force Tarawa, a unit made up of some 700 sailors and Marines from Regimental Combat Team 2; 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment; and the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion.

The 15th MEU had taken over the area in November 2006. It includes about a 9,600-square-mile area west of the Euphrates River, extending to the Syrian and Jordanian borders.

“Our main mission was to defeat insurgent forces in zone and gain and maintain security along the main supply route that links the two ports of entry with Ramadi,” said Col. Brian Beaudreault, 15th MEU commander.

Task Force Bullrush, as the 15th MEU is known, included Company B, 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion; Company C, 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion; 4th Civil Affairs Group; and Police Transition Team 21.

In the past four months, the Marines arrested some 300 suspected insurgents and seized dozens of weapons and munitions caches.

In mid-February, in a letter to families posted on the 15th MEU Web site, Beaudreault wrote, “I’m sure the news of an extension is not what any of you would care to hear at this time but, rest assured, it is essential to maintaining the forward progress in Al Anbar Province … we might very well be victims of our own success over here.”

The 15th MEU deployed from San Diego on Sept. 13, 2006.

In January, as part of President Bush’s revamped security plan for Baghdad and Anbar province, the unit learned its tour would be extended by 45 days.

They were among 4,000 Marines in Anbar extended by the order; the other units included 1st Battalion, 6th Marines and 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines.

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