The U.S. Marines are preparing their exit from Iraq. Col. Scott Aiken will be the last combat Marine in Iraq, as they "hand over" responsibility to the U.S. Army today.
So much about the Iraq war is historic, including the fact that for the Marines, their push from "Kuwait northward to Baghdad and eventually west to Anbar, was the most ground Marines have covered since their 1805 desert march across Egypt to what is today the republic of Libya - a feat recovnized in the reference to "the shores of Tripoli" in the Marines Corps anthem."
In 2008, the Marines reach their peak with 25,000 troops inside Iraq. Now they will be the first to leave, with remaining US Military leaving Iraq by the end of 2011, according to Obama.
Iraqi leaders want the Marines to go, but that's not all they want. They want the Marines to finish arming the Iraqi army:
I am happy that the Americans will leave, but they still have to complete arming the Iraqi army," Anbar tribal chief Sheik Hameed al-Ghadhban said. "They have some unfinished jobs to do, and the Iraqi army needs arms and equipment - they must supply us with them.Now we'll see if these people can take care of themselves, boastful and arrogrant, as they are. Throughout the war, it has been apparent that from the leaders down to the people on the street, they are a demanding bunch, but they easily absolve themselves for never demanding peace and security from their oppressors.
American officers are more gracious than Sheik Hameed al-Ghadhban. General Rick Tryon, the commander in Iraq said:
The security and stability that exists here is well within the means of the Iraqi security forces to maintain...You don't need United States Marines to do this at this point. So it's time, and it's timely. Besides, he added: "Afghanistan is calling."
Much of Tryon’s mission since taking over last February has focused on helping Anbar officials attract foreign investors and build up city services such as schools, hospitals and new roads and bridges.Of the approximately 3,500 U.S. troops killed in action in Iraq, at least 851 were Marines. Among the first troops in the country, they arrived to invade in March 2003. They saw duty in the most violent battles of the war: Fallujah and Ramadi. Marines remembered being awakened by a loud speaker calling for blood donations:
As a severely wounded Marine was flown in by helicopter, "We'd go down there and stand in line, waiting to give blood," said Sewell, 26, of N. Ft. Myers, Florida. "You'd see 200 people standing in line. We'd all stand there until the guy was stabilized or we gave blood.The battle for Anbar Province, located in a vast desert area, stretching from the western outskirts of the city of Baghdad, to the borders of Syria, Saudia Arabia and Jordan, is where 40 percent of all coalition deaths occurred.
Col. Scott Aiken will remain to see the last of the combat units packed and shipped. God Bless our Marines, always.