13th MEU becomes first ‘surge’ unit to leave Iraq
ARLINGTON, Va. — The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit has left Iraq, marking the departure of the first “surge” unit that will not be replaced.
The 2,200 Marines and sailors with the unit arrived in Anbar province in June as part of the buildup of 30,000 U.S. troops in Iraq known as the “surge.”
In July, the 13th MEU’s stay in Iraq was extended to the end of September.
Gen. David Petraeus, commander of Multi-National Force-Iraq, later recommended to President Bush that the 13th MEU not be replaced as part of a plan to reduce “surge” forces by next summer.
Bush accepted Petraeus’ recommendations, which also called for not replacing an Army brigade combat team in December and not replacing two Marine infantry battalions and four more Army brigade combat teams over the first seven months of 2008.
On Friday, a military official confirmed that the 13th MEU had left Iraq, as scheduled. The 22nd MEU is still in the region as the U.S. Central Command reserve force.
As he prepared to draw down “surge” forces in Anbar, Petraeus said he believes U.S. forces can continue to build on progress made in the province.
“The key in that assessment is the rejection by the local population of al-Qaida and the vast number of volunteers for the Iraqi Security Forces, which has enabled the reopening of a police academy in Anbar and expansion of police and Army forces there,” he said.
The “surge” has allowed U.S. and coalition troops to take the initiative from al-Qaida and disrupt militia activities, Petraeus said.
“Based on the battlefield geometry, the gains we have made, and the progress of the development of the Iraqi Security Forces, we are now able to consider drawing down in areas where the gains are assessed as sustainable,” he said.