Vladimir Putin thinks the US is right to withdraw its troops from Syria, but has expressed uncertainty about Washington’s announcement, noting that the US military has remained in Afghanistan for seventeen years.
Speaking with journalists during an annual Q&A session, Russia’s president said that American troops have no legal basis for operating in Syria, and if Washington was serious about pulling out its forces, it would be the right decision. Putin noted that the US has announced its “withdrawal” from Afghanistan on numerous occasions, and yet still remains the in country after seventeen years.
Concerning the pullout of US troops [from Syria], I don’t know what that is. The US has been in Afghanistan for 17 years already, and almost every year they say that they’re pulling their troops out. But they’re still present there.
He went on to applaud Russian and American military specialists for overcoming their differences in Syria and coordinating anti-terrorism operations in the country.“We don’t see any signs of US troops’ pullout, but we don’t rule out the possibility. All the more so because we’re going the way of a political solution," Putin added.
Putin said he largely agreed with US President Donald Trump’s assessment that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) had been defeated, but warned that there was still a danger that surviving fighters could relocate to neighboring countries.
Trump announced on Wednesday that US’ mission in Syria – the defeat of Islamic State – was complete, and that the US military would begin an immediate withdrawal from the country. In a tweet posted a day later, the US leader said his decision was "no surprise" and that it was time for US troops to "come home & rebuild."
Russia’s Foreign Ministry welcomed the news, with ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying that a US withdrawal could bring Syria closer to a “real prospect of political settlement.”
"There is hope that this area of Syria will eventually return to normal, peaceful life just like in Aleppo and other Syrian cities before it," Zakharova said, adding that "as long as the US [soldiers] were there, there was no such hope."