Earlier this year, President Barack Obama announced the drawdown of 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year – that’s 10 percent of the entire U.S. force in theater with 1,000 to 2,000 of those being Marines.
Marines will take on an advisory role in the coming year and turn security over to the Afghan government.
In a recent address by Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James F. Amos, he spoke about drawing down Marines from Afghanistan and where the Corps will focus its forces. The plan is to deploy 250 Marines to Darwin and Northern Australia in 2012 with a plan for up to 2,500 Marines deployed there with a Marine Air Ground Task Force.
“Our goal as we come out of Afghanistan is to reorient to the Pacific,” Amos said. “I’m very excited about Australia. That will be good for the nation.”
The Corps’ amphibious force mission includes maintaining freedom of movement for sea trade and providing operational reach and increased agility. Amos said the Corps would be getting back to its “amphibious roots” with the transition to the Pacific.
Even while Marines have focused their efforts in the Middle East, they have been able to continue as an expeditionary force of readiness at sea.
From a sea-bound operation in the Mediterranean earlier this year, Marine forces rescued a downed Air Force pilot in Libya within 90 minutes of being notified.
Likewise, within 20 hours of orders, forward-deployed Marines arrived in Japan and began humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions after a tsunami devastated the country March 11.
Marines also responded within hours to orders to interdict piracy on container ship MV Magellan Star.
As the U.S. reduces its forces, Marines will continue to advise Afghan forces and quell Taliban fighters in more remote areas. Afghan police will adopt a traditional “protect and serve” role, as the Afghan military moves to their outlying military bases.
Prior to the Department of Defense budget cut talks, the Marine Corps was already planning on reducing personnel from 202,000 to 186,800 to provide a post war Marine Corps. However, with the current financial crisis, Amos said the Corps would have to go well below that number to make ends meet.
“As our nation draws down, there’s a real level of risk,” Amos said. “The world’s not getting nicer.”
The reduction of troops also reduces the military’s capacity to do things everywhere and be ready for everything, Amos said.
“For a comparably small financial investment, the Corps continues to provide protection the nation needs in an increasingly uncertain world,” Amos said. “The Marine Corps will continue to be our nation’s risk mitigation force.”