Russia’s president Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit at Khmeimim Airbase in Syria on Monday morning, a base used traditionally by the Russian air force to launch air strikes against ISIS, and in an unexpected move which makes for a stark contrast between Donald Trump and himself, he ordered the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from Syria effective immediately.
Basically, the Russians said “mission accomplished, time to go home” after one third of Syria’s land area which was once under the Islamic State control has been effectively liberated.
Vladimir Putin was accompanied by Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu as he met with Syria’s strong man Bashar al-Assad at the airbase where Russian troops fighting alongside their Syrian counterparts were stationed during the country’s long and bloody “civil war”.
As per a report via Russia Today, Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian soldiers and equipment to begin immediately:
“I order the defense minister and chief of the general staff to start the withdrawal of Russian troops to the site of their permanent deployment,” Putin said, speaking to a crowd of Russian soldiers. The Russian leader said that during the span of two years, the Russian and Syrian militaries have “defeated the most battle-hardened grouping of international terrorists,”
said Putin, noting that he has decided that most of Russia’s military contingent in Syria must return home ASAP. However, Putin warned that if ISIS tries to make a comeback in Syria again, Russia’s retaliation will be swift and strong, like never seen before. He also added that Syria now meets the conditions for a United Nations led political settlement and, most importantly, that the millions of war refugees can now safely return home.
Vladimir Putin was briefed about the 43,500 square miles of Syrian territory being liberated from ISIS rule, and about the 32,000 ISIS terrorists that have been killed in the last 7 months. 25 aircraft, military police and Russian special forces will soon leave Syria, also a military field hospital will be removed shortly. Putin said that despite pulling out their troops, Russia will continue to use the Syrian port of Tartus and the Khmeimim Airbase.
In contrast, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters last month during a Pentagon briefing that the United States is looking at a long time military commitment in Syria:
“The enemy hasn’t declared that they’re done with the area yet, so we’ll keep fighting as long as they want to fight. We’re not just going to walk away right now before the Geneva process has traction.”