Last Marine unit ends combat mission in Afghanistan - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Last Marine unit ends combat mission in Afghanistan

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(CBS 8) - After 13 years of fighting, U.S. Marines are ending combat missions in Afghanistan. Marines and British forces turned over control of a key base to Afghan forces Sunday.

In a ceremony at Camp Leatherneck, located in the Helmand Province, service members from the United States, Britain and Afghanistan stood at attention as national anthems from all three countries played.

Marine flags were furled and cased -- symbolizing the end of the mission.

“The Marines that are here with me did a good job...it's good that we've finally reached that point where we can turn over the base,” Captain Ryan Steenburch said.

Helmand was the deadliest province for coalition forces, more than 940 troops were killed including 360 Marines.

Sunday marks a big milestone, handing over control of both Camp Leatherneck and Bastion to the Afghan army is a strong signal that the 13 year war here may be coming to an end.

“I have a sense of relief, I think it's time they start withdrawing and getting out of there,” Ret. Col. G.I. Wilson said. 

Retired Colonel G.I. Wilson spent 37 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He says though there have been short term successes in Afghanistan -- long term successes are questionable.

“We went into Afghanistan to dislodge al-Qaeda, to hold the Taliban accountable and preempt Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. I think all three of those points we've had some success but again, I would say, it's a mixed bag,” Wilson aid. 

He says its now up to the Afghan forces to determine their country's fate.

“There becomes a point when you have to leave, you have to turn the mission over to the host nation,” Wilson said. 

For now, British troops and U.S. Marines will continue to secure the perimeter of both bases until they receive orders to withdraw completely. For security reasons, an exact date has not been released.

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