Putin withdraws Russian forces from Syria

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!)

I’d say Russia doesn’t want to be bogged down with another Afghanistan, and saw continued operation in Syria as a money pit.

Perhaps only Putin really knows what the objectives were. So it’s all guesswork, but the government has solidified its control of the coastal parts of the country. Aleppo is mostly cut off and the rebels North of the city are being forced to redirect their efforts into ISIS territory. Palmyra might even be in the government’s hands soon.

Worrying about how much of the overall territory of Syria was regained while Russia was there may be missing what their goal was. They’ve established their air support of the Syrian government forces. The government is on an offensive and maybe they’ve been equipped with better weapons and trained to assist Russian aircraft.

Russia’s stated reason for getting involved militarily was to fight ISIS but they’ve done little against ISIS, so we know that isn’t the goal.

The Syrian Civil War is far from over.

Mission accomplished? :smiley:

Time for Vlad to go horseback riding shirtless and perhaps bag a bear. That’s the equivalent of a US president in a flight suit on the deck of a carrier.

There’s been some deal made we don’t know of, between Russia and parties unknown. That’s my guess.

Job done: mission creep avoided. ISIS severely reduced.

At least someone had the balls to do it. Assad can come later.

Yep, my guess as well.

Besides that, was their mission statement really to bomb Daesh?
As I recall it the mission was just supporting Assad.

Still drinking that Kool-Aid I see. :stuck_out_tongue: Well, at least your boy is smart enough to cut and run when he can.

How would you know that mission creep was avoided if you don’t know what the mission was?

As much as I hate to admit it, it was probably a smart move on Putin’s part. Might as well declare victory and get out of dodge while your ahead. If we had done this in Iraq in 2003, can anyone argue that it would have turned out worse in the long run?

Yeah, I think it’s perfectly clear that Iraq would have been worse if we marched in, destroyed a government, and marched out a few weeks later. Once a country is broken, fleeing doesn’t fix the problem.

Much worse if we’d cut and run in 2003. Hell, probably worse if we’d cut and run in 2007.

Putin’s objective was a port on the Mediterranean for the Russian navy. Asad offered that in exchange for stabilizing the military situation. The Syrian government now has a much more better position against the rebels.
This has probably prolonged the Civil war because before there was some hope of the Rebels beating the government and coming to an understanding with the Kurds to kick out ISIS. Now the Rebels can’t beat the government, the government won’t make peace with the Kurds and all three sides are too busy fighting each other to defeat ISIS.

Russia already had a presence in Syria long before they sent airplanes to Syria. The port has been there since 1971.

I disagree that the Syrian government is “in a much better position.” They’ve won back something like 5% of Syrian territory from the opposition, and no side has ever really had any realistic chance of imposing a military solution on the others.

Nothing has prolonged the civil war any. Literally nobody thinks that Assad was close to defeating the opposition. The only chance of a solution to the civil war involves the ceasefire holding for a while, until a deal can be made where Assad is eased out somehow and someone else takes over. If that someone else is not a homicidal maniac like Assad, most of the opposition groups will probably be okay with that. A few others, like Al Nusra and ISIL, won’t care and keep fighting anyway. But under a new government, both the Syrian armed forces and the many tens of thousands of non-radical oppositionists have a shot to join up and defeat the true extremists.

It’s a longshot that all that can be pulled off, but the idea that Assad is going to simply defeat the opposition on the battlefield is nuts – just as nuts as the statement from 12 years ago that “Americans will be greeted as liberators.” It is total fantasyland thinking to say that the Syrian government can win this multifront war.

The government was teetering towards collapse before the Russian intervention. The rebels were making steady, if slow gains. That has been reversed and the government is now on the offensive. It’s simply a total reverse of the strategic situation.

Here’s an article from May of last year, for an example:

Assuming by the Kurds you mean the YPG, the Syrian government and the Kurds are not fighting each other. They are not fighting together either.

If anything, the Kurds and Rebels are fighting each other. There is a Kurdish neighborhood in Aleppo being steadily destroyed by rebels and North of there, rebel groups have steadily lost territory to Kurds.

The Kurds are doing, by far, the best job of defeating ISIS. They really have nobody else to go after in the East of Syria, and they would have shrunk ISIS’ territory in North Central Syria if Turkey hadn’t started shelling them and complaining.

Do you have a cite demonstrating this? Reading the Wiki timeline on things it doesn’t seem to me that there has been anything like a ‘total reverse of the strategic situation’. There have been a few (very few) TACTICAL gains that the government has made in what looks to me to be unimportant backwaters, and they have shored up their defenses in other places, but a complete reversal of the strategic situation?? :dubious: If that were the case I don’t see why the government would be bothering with peace talks, to be honest.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/spy-chief-warns-that-us-could-face-attacks-inspired-by-terrorism-in-paris/2016/02/09/29f172c8-cf2f-11e5-b2bc-988409ee911b_story.html

Yeah - Assad is in a stronger NEGOTIATING position. He isn’t anywhere near being able to pull off a series of battlefield victories that would destroy the opposition. Assad has made some advances over the past several months, but nothing that changes the fundamental assessment that the war is a stalemate.

The situation last spring was looking pretty bad for Assad, but the Russian intervention didn’t happen for months later. It sounds like Iran and Hizbollah sent troops to shore up Assad months before that – link, link.

What’s more, nobody actually wanted the opposition to topple Assad. Nobody. That would have meant a collapse of the Syrian government, which would actually make Syria even worse.