U.S. military involvement ending in Lebanon departures

  • Published
  • By Army Sgt. Sara Wood
  • American Forces Press Service
The U.S. military today performed its final scheduled assisted departure for U.S. citizens in Lebanon, a U.S. military spokesman in Cyprus said.

The military has worked with the U.S. State Department and the governments of Turkey and Cyprus for the past 10 days to assist U.S. citizens departing from Lebanon, which has suffered extensive damage in 15 days of conflict between Israel and Lebanese Hezbollah militants.

The military has transported almost 14,000 U.S. citizens from Lebanon, said Marine Brig. Gen. Carl B. Jensen, commander of Task Force 59. The U.S. Embassy in Beirut estimates that the vast majority of U.S. citizens wishing to leave Lebanon have done so, General Jensen said.

The number of Americans coming to the U.S. Embassy in Beirut seeking transportation has diminished drastically, the general said, but U.S. military forces will remain in the country as long as they are needed.

"We will be here as long as the ambassador needs us to do the job that we've been assigned," he said. "We are still participating daily in moving the trickle of Americans now that wish to depart Lebanon out of Beirut, and we are supporting the embassy's efforts to continue to move Americans via civil transport out of southern Lebanon."

A group of 100 U.S. citizens was taken from southern Lebanon to the port city of Tyre today by civilian vehicles, and they will be joining another 110 Americans on a Canadian ship leaving today, Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said. In the last 24 hours, about 725 Americans left Lebanon aboard the contracted vessels Orient Queen and Vittoria M, he said.

On July 25, the U.S. military dropped off its first load of supplies to assist in the humanitarian effort being led by the United States Agency for International Development, General Jensen said. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which has been on the ground participating in assisted departure efforts, has not been assigned to the humanitarian mission yet, but will likely help with transporting supplies, he said.

More than 5,000 U.S. servicemembers have been involved in assisted departure efforts in Lebanon, General Jensen said. They have been putting in long hours, he said, but added that the mission is valuable and rewarding.

"We've got some awfully tired Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines out here. But, I'll tell you what, it's hard to get really tired in this business, because this is all about Americans helping Americans, and it gives you such a great feeling," the general said. "This is, in fact, a labor of love."