US to complete withdrawal of Marines from Sri Lanka by Feb.15
[TamilNet, Saturday, 29 January 2005, 10:05 GMT]
The Bush Administration has decided to complete the withdrawal of US Marines, arrived in Sri Lanka aftermath of the tsunami disaster, by February 15, with the US assistance program to Sri Lanka shifting from a combined military-civil relief effort to rehabilitation and reconstruction work to be carried out by civil organisations. Brigadier General Frank A. Panter Jr, said at a press conference at Taj Sumudra hotel in Colombo on Saturday that the CSG-SL has served over 1.5 million tsunami-affected Sri Lankans in nine districts, including Jaffna, Hambantota, Galle and Amparai.
The force of 1600 US Marines, named as Combined Support Group-Sri Lanka (CSG-SL) arrived in Sri Lanka on January 9 in a naval vessel USS Duluth, with the support of five hovercrafts, six Air Force HH-60 'Pavehawk' helicopters and three Marine Corps CH-46E 'Sea Knight' helicopters.
Setting up a logistical support unit camp in premises adjoining the Bandaranaike International Airport, the CSG-SL deployed its men in tsunami-hit areas in the Southern and Eastern provinces to clear the rubble and debris.
"We are proud of the tremendous assistance rendered by the US military to provide immediate relief at an important period of time following the tsunami," said US Embassy Charge d' Affaires, James Entwistle.
He said that the US military has successfully completed their primary missions in Galle, Amparai and Jaffna districts and has begun a 'draw down' of their personnel and equipment on the island, while the US civilian assistance was increasing and focusing on long term recovery.
He said further that the US military personnel have distributed medical supply to hospitals throughout the country and provided care for more than 1800 patients in the Jaffna district alone.
Answering to a question as to why the US Marines did not assist the tsunami-affected people in the LTTE-held areas in the North, Mr. Entwistle said, although the top priority of the US was to see how best it could help all affected people in Sri Lanka, it worked only in the government-held areas.
Mr. Entwistle, however, said that the US was encouraged by media report that the government and the LTTE were engaged in a dialogue to workout a common mechanism to disburse the relief assistance to the people in the North.
In an apparent bid to reject Colombo-based media reports, he said that the US military personnel have cooperated with the Indian military teams in Sri Lanka.