More than 400 artillery Marines are leaving Syria after helping local forces retake the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’s (ISIS) one-time de facto capital of Raqqa, the U.S.-led coalition said Thursday.
“With the city liberated and ISIS on the run, the unit has been ordered home. Its replacements have been called off,” the coalition said in a news release.
The 1st Battalion, 10th Marine Regiment arrived in Syria in Sept. 15 during the battle for the Syrian city, replacing a previous unit.
The U.S.-supported Syrian Democratic Forces retook Raqqa in October after a four-month battle for the city against ISIS.
Coalition officers hailed the Marines’ withdrawal as a sign of progress in the fight against the terrorist group.
“The departure of these outstanding Marines is a sign of real progress in the region," coalition director of operations Brig. Gen. Jonathan Braga said in a statement. "We're drawing down combat forces where it makes sense, but still continuing our efforts to help Syrian and Iraqi partners maintain security."
Remaining U.S. forces will work to defeat remaining ISIS fighters, prevent the group’s re-emergence and set conditions for other governments and nongovernmental organizations to help local citizens recover from ISIS rule, Braga added.
It’s unclear how many U.S. troops are in Syria. Officially, the Pentagon says the United States has 503 troops there.
The 503 figure is the so-called force management level set by the Obama administration.
But it’s an open secret there are many more troops than that in Syria. The force management level, for example, does not count temporary deployments.
Estimates and reports in recent weeks have placed the actual number of U.S. troops in Syria closer to 2,000.