US Has 4,500 Marines, F-35 Squadron on Standby to Support Syria Pullout

Amphibious groups in Red Sea, Persian Gulf

With an estimated 2,000 US troops in Syria, all relatively near the Iraqi border, the planned pullout seems like it should be straightforward. Indeed, the first of the pullout involved getting into vehicles and driving into Iraq.

But officials have said that withdrawing from Syria is going to require support from US troops elsewhere in the region. In addition to the troops in Iraq and Kuwait who are doing the logistics of driving 2,000 troops out of Syria over the course of several months, the US has also deployed two amphibious ready groups to the region.

These two groups involve an entire F-35B squadron of fighters on board the USS Essex, as well as around 4,500 shipboard Marines who will be on standby to support the pullout militarily if needed.

It’s not clear why the Pentagon would consider this necessary for the pullout. Moreover, it is unclear how 4,500 troops on board ships in the Red Sea and Persian Gulf are going to get involved in operations in eastern Syria, which are in the desert, and nowhere near any coasts.

Officials were emphasizing the need to “safely” withdraw troops from Syria, and having a huge number of Marines in the region may be an aspect of that, even if there’s no easy way they could even get involved in the situation. It may also serve to reassure hawkish allies who want large amounts of US forces to remain in the Middle East.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.