Putin Orders Start of Withdrawal from Syria

The Russian leader starts pulling his troops out of Syria following a six-month bombing campaign.

A Russian military jet takes off from Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, Syria, November 5, 2015
A Russian military jet takes off from Bassel al-Assad International Airport in Latakia, Syria, November 5, 2015 (Russian Ministry of Defense)

Russian president Vladimir Putin unexpectedly ordered his armed forces to start withdrawing from Syria on Tuesday.

The order follows a six-month bombing campaign in support of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s ally in Syria.

The Kremlin said Russia has largely met its objectives and now is the time to focus on peace talks.

World powers recently agreed to a cessation of hostilities in the Middle Eastern country’s civil war, but neither the Assad regime nor the various rebel groups fighting it were party to the accord.

Consolidation

The truce has led to some reduction in violence. But, as this website has reported, it was timed to allow troops loyal to Assad to regroup after taking territory from the opposition.

Russian airstrikes have given Assad cover to regain control of much of the western part of his country, stretching from Aleppo, once Syria’s largest city, in the north to Damascus, the capital, in the south.

When Russia intervened last year, it claimed to be supporting the Syrian dictator in his fight against Islamists like the self-proclaimed Islamic State.

But Russia dropped most of its bombs in areas held by less fanatical rebel groups, including near Assad’s Alawite homeland in the northwest. This is also where Russia’s warplanes have been based.