By: Will Tilley
U.S. Marine Camp Leatherneck held closing ceremonies on Sunday after 13 years of operation in Afghanistan. Marines stationed at the camp are starting to return home as the camp is handed over to Afghan control.
The British Camp Bastion, next to the U.S. base, is also closing. Both the British and American flags were lowered, leaving the Afghanistan flag flying over the camps.
Closing Camp Leatherneck has been a work in progress for the last three deployments of soldiers. U.S. troops have trained Afghan forces for the past two years in order to prepare them for this moment.
Camp Leatherneck is located in what has been the deadliest Afghan province, but things have quieted recently. Soldiers are no longer required to go on foot patrols and there is little to no action going on around the camp's walls.
Leatherneck is just one big piece to an American withdrawal that has been going on since 2011. In the deadly Helmand province, U.S. troops have given control of 91 other bases to Afghan forces and shut down another 52.
USC Ph.D student Alex Luchsinger visited the camp in 2011 while working for CBS News and says things were a lot different at the time.
"It was jumping in 2011, combat operations--the tempo was high. It was following a big assault in Marjah, in Helmand province," Luchsinger says.
Luchsinger says there was a lot of distrust between U.S. and Afghan troops at the time too. Many Afghan troops and police were attacking American forces in what was called "green-on-blue" killings.
While he was prepared to go back to Afghanistan earlier this year, Luchsinger says that things had quieted down so much that there wasn't anything to base a story on this time around.
Even with the changing climate, Luchsinger still has mixed feelings over removing the marines from Leatherneck.
"I still don't think they're ready to pull out, especially with the change of hands in the presidency (in Afghanistan)," Luchsinger says. "We're not on good terms with Afghanistan by any means, but at the same time there comes a point they have to police their own country."
The last Marines left at the camp are from the 1st Batallion, 2nd Marine Regiment out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. These Marines are set to return home well before their scheduled end of tour in February 2015.