US President Donald Trump officially announced a decision to withdraw troops from Syria on December 19. The Trump administration provided no official information about the schedule of the expected withdrawal or any other details. According to reports in the media and other sources, personnel of the US State Department were withdrawn from the war-torn country within 24 hours after the announcement. The troops pull-out is expected to take place within 60-90 days.
Trump’s decision caused a mixed bag of criticism and support among US allies and geopolitical opponents. In particular, France declared that ISIS was not defeated and it is going to keep forces in Syria.
On December 26, the Russian Foreign Ministry released an interesting statement commenting on the situation with the US troops withdrawal.
“We are closely monitoring the execution of the decision made by US President Donald Trump on December 19 to withdraw the American army from Syria. We understand the importance of this decision, which, according to our assessment, is to contribute to a comprehensive settlement of the situation,” Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stressed. “We do not completely understand all the reasons and incentives of this move; there is no clarity regarding the temporary withdrawal schedule for the US military either.“
Zakharova added that Moscow “is still being guided by media reports that the full withdrawal of the US land force from northeastern Syria, the Al-Tanf area, may be carried out in two to three months.”
The foreign ministry representative added the following:
“American official representatives make it clear that the withdrawal of the army from Syrian territory does not mean the end of the activity of the so-called international coalition led by the US in the fight against the IS [ISIS].”
“US officials have no strict, unequivocal statements regarding their own strategy; these are all unfinished hints and veiled wordings.”
“This suggests that the issue allegedly concerns the transfer to the next stage of the counter-terrorism campaign.”
“Does it mean that the Americans may continue air strikes and restricted land operations on Syrian territory from home bases beyond this Arab republic? The question is still open.”
She further emphasized that the control over US-held Syrian territories should be returned to the Damascus government.
The main meaning of the fresh remarks by the foreign ministry spokeswoman is that Moscow [the foreign ministry and intelligence services] does not understand clearly the real reasons behind the decision of the Trump administration to withdraw troops from Syria. The Russian side is likely concerned that the reasons behind the decision could be not only “positive” [a move towards de-escalation] but also “negative” signal.
Furthermore, most of the complex military diplomatic decisions are rarely based on some factors. Such decisions are baused on a wide range of complicated issues and factors. Some experts say tha the troops pull-out is a part of the wider deal between the US and Turkey, which may lead to the shift of the Turkish attitude towards the conflict in Syria and actions of Russia and Iran in the Middle East.
Another possible factor, which may have lead to the troops withdrawal from Syria, is that Washington is withdrawing diplomats and forces from the combat zones because the US leadership is preparing for possible conflict in other regions around the world, first of all in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
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