The tough-guys in Washington have had their eyes out for a number of other countries; but then they're more bogged down in Iraq then they expected. Even so Iran and Syria in the Middle East are next on the list for 2005, with of course North Korea as well.
U.S. Marines engaged in 'silent war' near Syrian border
SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Monday, April 19, 2004
BAGHDAD – The United States has been fighting what officials term a silent war with Syria which killed at least five soldiers over the weekend.
U.S. officials said U.S. Marines have deployed along the Syrian border to stop the flow of insurgents and equipment to Iraq. They said Marines have engaged with both Sunni insurgents as well as some Syrian security personnel along the border in clashes that have intensified over the last few weeks.
The U.S. military presence – increased by more than a third over the last two months – was said to be focused on the western Iraqi towns of Al Qaim and Qusaybah, regarded as key points in the smuggling of insurgents and weapons from Syria to Iraq.
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Officials acknowledged that at least five soldiers of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, who replaced the 82nd Airborne Division, were killed in battle with 150 insurgents in Husaybah over the weekend, Middle East Newsline reported.
"The Marines did suffer some casualties there," Maj. Gen. John Sattler, director of operations for U.S. Central Command, said. "But in the end, they were able to go ahead and calm that area down. I would say the last six, seven, eight days, we've had some sporadic fighting up in that area, but very limited casualties on the part of the Marines."
In a briefing on April 16, Sattler outlined the mission of the Marines along the Syrian border. He said the mission included constant air and mobile patrols as well as operation of reconnaissance and sensor assets.
Sattler said the Marines have deployed a quick reaction force that includes helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft for attacks along the Syrian border. He said the insurgents move through the Syrian border past Al Qaim to Ramadi and Fallujah. Eventually, he said, many of the insurgents arrive in Baghdad.
"It is a large border and at nighttime there's a lot of wadis and places where individuals can go in and work their way across," Sattler said. "But once they get across they still have a vast portion of desert to come through, and we constantly patrol that to either A. deter them because we are out there in such force, or B. catch them and go ahead and bring them to justice."
U.S. officials said that despite numerous warnings Syria continues to allow Al Qaida-aligned insurgents to enter Iraq. The officials said Syrian border guards have been bribed to ignore the infiltration of insurgents into Iraq.
So far, they said, the Syrian military has not engaged the U.S. Marines along the Iraqi-Syrian border. But they said in some cases Syrian border guards were involved in clashes between insurgents and U.S. troops. They did not report casualties among the Syrian guards.