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For Marines at Camp Pendleton, it's goodbye Iraq, hello Afghanistan

October 5, 2009 |  9:05 am

Marine In a quiet ceremony a week ago in Iraq, U.S. Marines turned over responsibility for Anbar province to the Army -- ending a six-year presence in the province for Marine regimental combat teams.

And several days later at Camp Pendleton, there was another ceremony: reestablishing the 1st Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Early next year the brigade will assume command of Marine forces in Afghanistan, now numbering more than 11,000.

For Marines at Camp Pendleton, Twentynine Palms and the other area bases, the drawdown in Iraq means a shift of emphasis to the war in Afghanistan.

Most Marine forces in Afghanistan are in Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold and the center of the nation's poppy crop, which is used in the heroin trade that provides funding for the insurgency.

Marines say progress is being made in Helmand in protecting the civilian population and winning them away from the insurgency.

"Make no mistake about it, there is still a lot yet to be done in Afghanistan," Lt. Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of the Camp Pendleton-based 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, told Friday's gathering marking the brigade's revival.

Read the complete story on the Marines' counterinsurgency training.

-- Tony Perry at Camp Pendleton

Photo: Marine helicopter transporting a howitzer in Helmand province, Afghanistan. Credit: Marine Sgt. Christopher Rye.

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