FALLUJAH, Iraq --
Marines with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1, handed over control of several forward operating bases and combat outposts in the city of Fallujah, Iraq, to Iraqi Security Forces Jan. 1.
The turnover is concurrent with U.S. plans to begin drawing down forces in Iraq throughout the next three years.
During a media round table at the Pentagon Briefing Room in Arlington, Va., December 2, 2008, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said service members should be out of populated areas in the country by the end of June 2009.
“We will confront or have a different kind of situation, in Iraq, at the end of June 2009 than we would have thought perhaps in June of 2008,” he said at the meeting. “And I think that the commanders are already looking at what the implications of that are, in terms of the potential for accelerating the drawdown and in terms of how we meet our obligations to the Iraqis.”
1st Battalion, 4th Marines, is among several battalions in al Anbar leading the way to tear down, demilitarize or turn over bases and outposts to Iraqi Security Forces.
The battalion has consolidated its forces into centralized locations and is currently only keeping a small number of its forces in the city.
Lt. Col. Chris Hastings, the battalion’s commanding officer, said his Marines will continue to maintain a presence in their area of operations, but they are minimizing their movements through the cities.
Marines conducting security patrols in Fallujah have already started minimizing their presence, and new considerations have been put in place for travel and daily routines in other cities, Hastings said.
Iraqi Security Forces has the lead on security and protecting the citizens living in Fallujah, and they conduct their own security operations without the aid of Coalition forces, he said.
“This is just one more step that we have taken towards seeing a sovereign, democratic and free Iraq,” said Hastings. “I have seen what the ISF are capable of doing, and I know that they will continue to do great things as they conduct their own operations, search for weapons caches and continue following the rule of law.”
Hastings said his Marines are continuing readiness training and remain on the alert in the event that their help is requested by ISF.
“We will be ready to respond to incidents should they occur and also when we are requested for support,” said Hastings.