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101st Division Soldiers to Relieve 15th MEU in Afghanistan

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31, 2001 – Soldiers of the 101st Airborne (Air Assault) Division will relieve the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in Afghanistan, U.S. Central Command officials said Dec. 30.

The soldiers will deploy to the Kandahar airport and other areas around the city, officials said.

"The Marines are an expeditionary force," Centcom spokesman Navy Cmdr. Dave Cullen said. "They've done their job and now they are leaving."

The soldiers will come from Fort Campbell, Ky. The 15th MEU is home-based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. There are just over 1,000 Marines in the region. For security reasons officials would not say how many soldiers are going to the area.

The mission will remain the same. The soldiers will engage in combat operations against Al Qaeda and Taliban holdouts, they will also secure the airfield so humanitarian supplies can flow to the Afghan population. Finally, they will help process Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees.

U.S. officials have control of 180 Al Qaeda and Taliban detainees. Eight including John Walker are aboard the USS Peleliu. A total of 164 are in Kandahar, seven at Bagram air base outside Kabul and one is at Mazar-e Sharif.

Centcom officials said U.S. forces dropped no ordnance Dec. 30, but stand ready to provide close-air support when and where needed. Leaflet drops continue, as do Commando Solo radio broadcasts.

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