Russia begins withdrawing forces from Syria

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(CNN) Russia began withdrawing its forces from Syria this morning in a move that will leave behind both significant destruction and a Syrian regime to fend for itself to a much greater extent.

The first group of Russian planes left Hmeymim air base in Syria on Tuesday morning, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

syriaRussia’s surprise announcement yesterday (Monday) that it would withdraw from the conflict came as suddenly as its devastating airstrike campaign that started in September.

But Syria’s government was not caught unawares by the move, a senior official told CNN.

 “We were not surprised because the decision was made in coordination and consultation with us,” Bouthaina Shaaban, senior adviser to Syrian President Bashar-al-Assad, told CNN’s Becky Anderson.

“We knew beforehand that this is what was going to be announced because the Russians came here to achieve certain jobs, and we and they agreed that most of the jobs have been achieved.”

In terms of “fighting terrorism,” she said, “they’ve done a great job and they will continue in fighting terrorism, but there are some tasks which have been completed, and therefore the Russian and Syrian leadership agreed that it is appropriate now to withdraw some of the planes or forces.”

planeRussian President Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal Monday, saying that “the task that was assigned to the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces as a whole has achieved its goal.”

But critics said that Moscow’s stated goal of fighting terrorist groups such as ISIS in Syria did not accurately reflect the reality of its military actions in the war-ravaged nation.

They point to the bombings of civilian areas as evidence that Russia has been more interested in helping Assad eliminate his opposition.

Syrian opposition welcomes Russian withdrawal

The war in Syria has raged for five years and claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people. Millions have fled the conflict, but nearly 18 million people still live in the war-torn country - so what is life like for them?
The war in Syria has raged for five years and claimed the lives of more than a quarter of a million people. Millions have fled the conflict, but nearly 18 million people still live in the war-torn country – so what is life like for them?

Asked Tuesday whether the Russian withdrawal signaled a case of “mission accomplished,” Shaaban replied, “Hundreds of villages have been liberated, many towns have been liberated from armed gangs, huge parts of Syria have been liberated.”

She said Russia’s Defense Ministry had said the “war against terrorism will continue. And we are happy also to see Russian-American coordination in fighting terrorism.”

Russia’s steps were “the right steps toward a political settlement and also toward a continuation of fighting terrorism,” she continued.

Why now?

The benefits of Russia staying in Syria no longer outweighed the costs, said James Gelvin, a history professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

And with Russia’s economy in trouble because of falling oil prices, the fight in Syria could be deemed an unnecessary cost.

1 COMMENT

  1. Russia begins withdrawing forces from Syria
    When will America withdraw their goons for Guyana and let the majority Guyanese votes count ?

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