Around 400 US Marines deployed to Syria have been providing deadly -albeit secretive- artillery fire missions for American allies in the region, according to a spokesman from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit.
The Leathernecks have been assisting the push of Kurdish and Syrian Arab Forces into the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa, lobbing more than 4,500 rounds in support of the fight to take the city from the Islamic State.
The Marines belong to the 11th MEU were sent to the area during their seven-month deployment aboard the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group. Since the time of the report, the Marines have been replaced by another (unidentified) Marine artillery unit.
11th MEU Spokesman Major Craig Thomas and other Marine officials have been discreet on the details of the deployments, going so far as to say the approximate number of rounds fired was one of the few statistics he was allowed to divulge.
“It’s an ongoing operation,” Thomas said during a Wednesday press conference. “We have another Marine unit that’s there – to my knowledge, they have not released that name, so we’ll let [Operation Inherent Resolve] do that. It’s not exactly an established theater as Iraq or Afghanistan was.”
Officials have declined to say if the Marines ever came under attack during their stint on Syrian soil, only noting that the Marines (and their support) were prepared for the task.
“They studied what they were going into,” Thomas said. “The Marines went into there were staffed with the right security elements, the right mobility, the right logistics, the right intel to be able to move around that battlespace, successfully provide artillery fire and contribute to the mission.”
While officials declined to mention anything about Marine air power being used in support of the 11th MEU’s ground forces, leaked photos of Makin Island-based AV8B Harrier IIs being loaded with bombs made their rounds on the 11th MEU’s Twitter page in March before they were ordered to be taken down. In February, a Makin Island MVB-22 Osprey went down in Yemen during the time of a raid that killed Navy Seal William “Ryan” Owens.
According to the Marine Corps Times, all questions on the raid have been deferred to US Central Command and Special Operations Command, respectively.
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