Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a surprise visit to Syria on Monday, using the opportunity to reiterate his government’s declaration of victory over ISIS, as well as to announce a “significant” partial military withdrawal from the country.
Gen. Sergey Surovikin, the Russian commander in Syria, said that 23 warplanes and two helicopters would be withdrawn, along with unspecified numbers of military police and special forces. Exact numbers going, or remaining, were not disclosed.
Russian forces remaining in the country are said to be oriented primarily toward stabilization missions, though Syria still has to contend with rebel forces inside Idlib Province, and Russian warplanes may be involved in that operation.
Pentagon officials dismissed Putin’s report, suggesting he might be lying about the drawdown, and that even if he wasn’t it would have no impact on America’s own troop levels within Syria, which officially are around 2,000 troops.