U.S. Grants NATO Request to Extend Marine Unit’s Afghanistan Tour
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 3, 2008 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has approved a NATO-led International Security Assistance Force request that the 2,200 Marines of 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit remain in Afghanistan a month longer than planned.
Marine Corps spokesman Maj. Dave Nevers said the Marines “have been doing an effective job” in Regional Command South.
NATO officials said the ISAF commander, Army Gen. David McKiernan, requested the one-month extension.
“The extension will allow these Marines to reinforce the success they have had on the ground,” a Defense Department official speaking on background said.
The unit is part of a one-time deployment to Afghanistan that began in March. The original orders called for the Marines to be back at Camp Lejeune, N.C., in October. The extension will move their return into November. Families began receiving notification of the extension yesterday.
There are still no plans to replace the Marines once their tour in the volatile area is complete. A total of 12 Marines have been killed fighting the Taliban and their al-Qaida allies since the deployment began.