- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Marine Corps unit providing combat support for Iraqi forces battling to retake the Islamic State terror group’s main base in Mosul will be heading back to the United States.

The roughly 200 Marines at Firebase Bell, stationed roughly 50 miles southeast of Mosul as part of the U.S.-led mission to combat the Islamic State, or ISIS or ISIL, known as Operation Inherent Resolve will be rotating back to their home units by August, spokesman Col. Steve Warren said.

Col. Warren declined to comment on which American units will replace the Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit at Firebase Bell during a Wednesday press briefing from Baghdad.

But Marine Corps Sgt. Austin Long, spokesman for the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, said Thursday that an Army artillery unit would be taking up positions at Firebase Bell, now known as the Karasoar Counterfire Complex, once the Marines leave.

Sgt. Long declined to comment on what specific Army unit would be heading to Mosul or when it was expected to arrive at the complex.

Marines at the complex have been supporting Iraqi forces with mortars and heavy artillery since Baghdad’s campaign to retake the city began in March.

Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin with 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was killed in one of those attacks in late March.

Iraqi forces backed by American air power successfully cut off the terror group’s main supply route to the north of Mosul and now were moving into position to begin isolating ISIS fighters in the city, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told congressional lawmakers.

“Some of those are [Iraqi] forces coming from the south, some of them are two brigades of peshmerga coming from the north,” Mr. Carter told members of the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee on Wednesday.

Those forces are expected to be in position before the beginning of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which starts on June 6, Mr. Carter said.

American commanders in Iraq also expect to have the group’s main supply lines south of Mosul cut off by the time the Iraqi and Kurdish forces are in position, Col. Warren said the same day.

Initially, U.S. military advisers in the country claimed the base, located in the Iraqi city of Makhmour, was built to protect Iraqi troops and American advisers in the area. But the base’s true mission came to light after ISIS fighters launched a series of attacks against U.S. forces there.

The relative success of the U.S. firebase mission in and around Mosul has prompted American commanders to consider establishing similar installations across Iraq, as local forces look to ramp up operations to drive ISIS fighters from the country.

“As Iraqi security forces progress toward isolating Mosul, there may be a situation in which there is another base,” Rear. Adm. Andrew Lewis, the vice director for operations, said earlier this month.

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