Washington alerts Moscow that US troops will leave Syria soon

US President Donald Trump traditionally announced via Twitter on Wednesday that Washington had defeated the Islamic State (terror group, outlawed in Russia) and it was time to bring US troops back home. Soon, it was reported that Washington had started withdrawing its troops from Syria, Izvestia writes. According to the latest data, there are more than 2,000 US soldiers in Syria, who were deployed mostly to the area of the eastern bank of the Euphrates River. The White House said that despite the US contingent’s pullout, the coalition's forces will remain in Syria.

Sources in Russia’s Defense Ministry told the paper that Washington had informed Moscow about its plans to withdraw troops from Syria several days before the official announcement. "Recently, the US notified us via the deconfliction channel about the possible start of its withdrawal of troops from Syria. They mentioned the area of Deir ez-Zor," one of the sources said. "This was done to avoid Russia’s questions and concerns when the process begins."

Trump claimed that the US had defeated ISIS in Syria, but neither the Americans nor their allies nor the world community believe this, Chairman of Russia’s State Duma (lower house of parliament) Defense Committee and former Commander of the Russian Airborne Troops, Vladimir Shamanov told Izvestia.

The lawmaker stressed that the success in the struggle against IS in Syria should be fully credited to the Russian Aerospace Defense Forces and the Fleet and their cooperation with Turkish and Iranian units. He lambasted the US pullout from Syria as a "shameful escape," comparing it to their retreat from Vietnam. According to the MP, the US did not plan to defeat ISIS, because "these are their people." He stressed that it was too early to speak about any full triumph over terrorism in Syria. "ISIS needs to be defeated. The Americans will still help these bastards, if not directly, but implicitly. It is known that the coalition forces helped send terrorists from Syria to northwestern Afghanistan. Today, the major danger is ISIS penetration into Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Given that fact, new provocations by the militants should be expected," Shamanov stressed.

According to Vladimir Fitin, Head of the Middle East Center at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISS), Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces will result in reshaping the map of Syrian territory to the east of the Euphrates River. Washington is again betraying its long partners in the region, the Kurds, on whom it had relied over the past two and a half years. By leaving the Kurds in Syria without any support, Washington is actually handing them to the Turkish forces, the expert stressed.

Michael Kofman, senior researcher at the US Center for Naval Analyses, told Vedomosti that the US administration has not yet decided on whether the withdrawal would be full or gradual. Meanwhile, the Pentagon prefers to continue supporting its Kurdish allies and hold on to the levers of influence in the region.

Trump said from the very beginning that Washington's only goal was to defeat ISIS, political scientist Fyodor Lukyanov told the paper. "But the devil is in the detail. Russia had announced cutting or withdrawing its major contingent from Syria nearly three times, and this happened to some degree, but did not mean stopping military presence," the expert noted. The issue is about whom the US will leave in Syria, Lukyanov said. "I think it is evident and clear that some presence will remain, at least in the zone of the Syrian Kurdistan on the border with Turkey. The Kurds are the US' major military ally in Syria and control will remain, but a reduced one. It would be rather strange to fully leave [these areas] given that the Americans had settled there fundamentally." The meaning of Trump’s announcement of his 'victory' over ISIS and the pullout of forces will be clear later after particular actions, he stressed.

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