Putin's Announcement Means Russian Combat Operations in Syria Are Over
The withdrawal is apparently slated to begin on Tuesday 15th March 2016.
The reason Putin has given for the decision is that with the announcement of the truce and with the Syrian army reorganised and able to conduct offensive operations on its own, the presence of the Russian strike force is no longer needed.
It is clear that there will not be a total withdrawal. Khmeimim air base will not be entirely abandoned and the Russians will keep a presence in Syria sufficient to monitor the truce. However that will most be done using aerial drones.
It is also clear that the Russians stand ready to return to Syria if the need arises.
No-one predicted this announcement, which makes a total nonsense of Western claims that Russia has become bogged down in a quagmire in Syria. As for the claim that Putin is deliberately bombing Syrians in order to flood Europe with refugees so as to destabilise Merkel, that claim is now exposed as the utter absurdity that it is.
That will not however prevent Western commentators from finding some way to twist this announcement to suit their “Putin is Evil” narrative. We look forward to seeing over the next few days the Western media and Western governments engaging in more contortions of logic as they try to explain this announcement.
Meanwhile the latest information says that the newly reinvigorated Syrian army - strengthened by Russian arms supplies and training and reinforced with fresh troops from Iran - is pressing ahead with its offensives against Aleppo, Palmyra, Idlib and Raqqa.
The Russian intervention totally changed the dynamic of the war. As Putin proudly said in his announcement, it is rare for such a small force to make such a decisive difference in a conflict in such a short time.
Russian efforts will now - at least for the moment - focus more on diplomatic than military action, leaving such fighting as needs to be done to the Syrians.
First published by the official Russian news agency TASS