Pentagon wraps up combat support mission in Africa

U.S. commanders have pulled the plug on combat support operations for French and local forces in the Central African Republic, according to the Pentagon. 

Since support operations began in the country earlier this month, U.S. military assets have ferried hundreds of foreign troops and tons of equipment, vehicles and supplies into the war-torn African nation, Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren said Monday. 

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Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelAfghan interpreter who helped rescue Biden: 'If they find me, they will kill me' Afghan interpreter who helped extract Biden, other senators in 2008 asks president to save him Democrats defend Afghan withdrawal amid Taliban advance MORE ordered the support mission after consulting with French Defense Minister Yves Le Drian in early December. 

As American-led operations come to a close in the Central African Republic (CAR), Air Force support teams on the ground in the country, as well as the three C-17 cargo aircraft sent into the continent, will begin withdrawing over the next few weeks. 

At the height of the U.S.-led support mission, more than 160 American personnel were on the ground in the African country. The U.S. mission was only expected to last a week. 

That said, a handful of American military advisers will remain in CAR, acting as official liaisons with French forces who will remain in country, Warren told reporters at the Pentagon. 

Nearly 1,000 French troops on the ground, as part of the international peacekeeping force sent to the African country earlier this month. 

Paris launched the peacekeeping operation after violence in the African nation between Muslim rebels and the Christian-controlled government. Rebels battled their way into Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, last week, resulting in roughly 400 people killed. 

The White House set aside nearly $60 million for the U.S. combat support  mission to CAR, after President Obama said rebel forces there "must be held accountable — in accordance with the law," according to a White House statement issued earlier this month. 

"As forces from other African countries and France work to restore security, the United States will support their efforts to protect civilians," Obama added at the time.