BANDA ACEH, Indonesia, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- The U.S. military began to scale back tsunami relief efforts after five weeks of ferrying relief aid to survivors in Indonesia's stricken Aceh province.
Indonesia's senior cabinet minister and military chief, Gen. Endriartono Sutarto, traveled to the USS Abraham Lincoln off Sumatra's coast for a ceremony to see off the crew and helicopters instrumental in getting desperately needed food to remote corners of the province.
U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia B. Lynn Pascoe said it was time to start pulling back from relief operations that started days after the Dec. 26 tsunami, which left more than 230,000 dead or missing in Aceh.
The Lincoln was scheduled to leave Sumatra Friday, leaving behind the USS Essex, the vessels accompanying it and the hospital ship USNS Mercy, officials said.
Indonesian officials have said foreign troops should leave by the end of March. U.S. officials said recently they expected to finish their work by the end of February as civilian relief organizations take over operations.