Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared mission accomplished in Syria, “on the whole” at least, and announced that Russia will be withdrawing the “main part” of its military forces from there, starting tomorrow.
Russia’s direct military involvement in Syria began in September last year when, to quote the BBC, “President Assad’s regime was on the brink of collapse”. Since then, the Syrian government’s army has retaken 10,000 sq km of land.
However, 10,000 sq km is only a little over 5% of Syria’s total area. The regularly updated maps of the Syrian Civil War on wikipedia don’t, to the casual observer, appear to show any decisive shifts in territory over that time (although it’s good to that ISIL’s domain has receded in extent). (Maps: 11/30/2015, 3/13/2016).
A “cessation of hostilities” has, in theory, been in place in Syria since the end of last month, although there have been reports of violations, mainly by the government side.
So what are we to make of Russia’s withdrawal? Have they accomplished their mission? What does it mean for the future of the Syrian Civil War? Is the Syrian Civil War now over, at least militarily? (I don’t think so, but I offer it for debate!)