Putin says he’s pulling Russian troops out of Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he pulling his troops out of Syria as the country’s civil war drags into its fifth year, Reuters reported Monday.

Putin reportedly called Syrian President Bashar Assad on Monday to inform him that a troop withdrawal would take place the next day, declaring that Russia’s military intervention in the Syrian war had largely achieved objectives.

“The task assigned to the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces as a whole has been largely accomplished, so I order the minister of defence to begin withdrawing the main part of our military factions of the Syrian Arab Republic tomorrow,” Putin said, according to Russian news agency Interfax.

The Kremlin announced that in order to monitor the two-week-old ceasefire between the regime and opposition forces on the ground, some Russian forces will remain behind. It’s not clear whether Russia will stop carrying out airstrikes in Syria.

Russia’s bombing campaign has mostly focused on rebels that oppose the Assad regime. While Putin has said that Russia is in Syria to fight terrorist groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State (aka ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh), the country’s airstrikes and advisers have mostly focused on bolstering the Assad regime.

Analysts were quick to point out that Russia’s statement leaves room for the country to continue its mission in Syria in some capacity.

Hassan Hassan, a Syria expert who coauthored “ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,” noted on Twitter that a “big caveat” is that the Kremlin’s statement mentions withdrawing only “main forces.”

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