US Marines insist on being removed from Iraq

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Washington, Oct 11 (UNI) The US Marine Corps has insisted that its forces be removed from Iraq and sent to Afghanistan instead to take the lead in combat there.

According to senior military and Pentagon officials, the suggestion was raised in a session last week convened by Defence Secretary Robert M Gates for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and regional war-fighting commanders, the New York Times reported.

This would leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while the Marines would play an important role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command.

The supporters of the idea argue that such a realignment of the troops could allow the Army and Marines to operate more efficiently in two wars that have put a strain on their forces.

Presently, there are about 25,000 marines in Iraq and no major Marine units in Afghanistan.

No formal proposal had been presented by the Marines yet.

It is believed that such a realignment would ease pressure on the Army, by allowing it to move troops from Afghanistan to Iraq.

Senior officials said it would allow the Marines to carry out the Afghan mission in a way the Army cannot, by deploying as an integrated Marine Corps task force that included combat aircraft as well as infantry and armoured vehicles.

The idea of assigning the Afghan mission to the Marines was given by Gen James T Conway, the Marine Corps commandant.

The Marine Corps is designed to fight with other services -- it is based overseas aboard Navy ships and is intertwined with the Army in Iraq. At the same time, the Marines are also a force for quick deployment and can go to war with troops, armour, attack jets and supplies.

UNI

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