- - Thursday, April 7, 2016

The small contingent of Marines supporting Iraqi forces near the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul are there on a temporary basis, but military officials have no plans for when those troops will be pulled out.

“The Marines are there temporarily [but] we do not have an end date yet” for their mission, Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesman Col. Steve Warren told reporters at the Pentagon during a teleconference briefing from Baghdad.

“But it is a temporary stay until we come up with an enduring solution or until they are not needed anymore,” Warren said Thursday.

The roughly 200 Marines at Firebase Bell, about 50 miles southeast of the Islamic State’s Iraqi capitol of Mosul, have been supporting Iraqi forces with mortars and heavy artillery since Baghdad’s campaign to retake the city began in March.

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 Islamic State fighters launched a series of attacks against U.S. forces there.

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.

Warren said the number of attacks on the base have decreased significantly as Iraqi forces drive closer to Mosul. That said, the Marines at Firebase Bell, now known as the Karasoar Counterfire Complex, “fire every day in support of Iraqi maneuvers … they are fully engaged.”

The relative success of the Marine Corps firebase supporting the Iraqi advance in Mosul is prompting Pentagon leaders to consider opening similar bases elsewhere in 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 Wednesday.

Lewis raised the notion that U.S. advisers could reoccupy former American bases in Iraq to carry out fire support missions for local forces advancing on IS havens throughout Iraq, according to the Associated Press.

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