More than 400 U.S. Marines who helped recapture the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State are leaving the country, according to the U.S.-led coalition that is fighting the militant group.
“We’re drawing down combat forces where it makes sense, but still continuing our efforts to help Syrian and Iraqi partners maintain security,” U.S. Brigadier General Jonathan Braga said in a coalition statement.
Working with 'partner forces'
“Our remaining forces will continue to work by, with, and through partner forces to defeat remaining ISIS, prevent a re-emergence of ISIS, and set conditions for international governments and NGOs (Non-governmental organizations) to help local citizens recover from the horrors of ISIS’ short-lived rule,” Braga added, using an alternative name for Islamic State.
The Pentagon has said officially there are 503 troops in Syria but U.S. officials said, as of last week, the number was closer to 2,000.
The Marines and their artillery were deployed to Syria in March, joining an alliance of Kurdish and Arab troops and the Syrian Democratic Forces. They recaptured Raqqa from IS in October after an intense offensive that was bolstered by coalition artillery and aerial attacks.
US troop number unsure
The international coalition continues to provide support in nearby Deir Ezzor province while Syrian government forces, backed by the Russian military, conducts a separate campaign in the same region.
It was not immediately clear how many U.S. troops will remain in Syria. Most are special operations troops that are training and advising local partner forces and providing continued artillery support against IS.