The Marine Corps commandant says that all but a few dozen of the 16,000 Marines now in Iraq will be out by next spring, putting a solid end date on a long-anticipated exit for the corps.
Marine commanders are already moving equipment out of Anbar Province, where the Leathernecks have largely been concentrated, said Gen. James T. Conway. The larger exodus will begin shortly after the Iraqi national elections in December.
Conway told a National Press Club audience that he sees the number of Marines in Iraq going down to essentially zero. He said that the only exception will be about 30 Marines who will be working with Iraq's own fledgling Marine Corps securing oil platforms in the south around Basra.
All U.S. combat forces are scheduled to be out of Iraqi cities by the end of this month, and out of Iraq by the end of 2011.
Thousands of members of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force are headquartered at Camp Pendleton.