MESOP Syria Daily: US Cautiously Welcomes Russian Withdrawal

March 16 . 2016 – by Scott Lucas – eaworldview – The Obama Administration has cautiously welcomed President Vladimir Putin’s announcement of a withdrawal of most Russian forces from Syria.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on Tuesday:

The Russia military intervention propped up Assad and only made it more difficult for that political resolution to be reached. If they continue to follow through, then that would be a positive outcome. Unnamed administration officials told journalists that they needed further evidence of withdrawal to conclude that Putin was genuine. On Tuesday, the Pentagon said the American military had seen fewer than 10 warplanes depart from Russia’s base in western Syria and no significant troop movements.Putin surprisingly announced the withdrawal on Monday in a televised conference, saying, “Our goals have generally been fulfilled.”

The statement appeared to have surprised the Assad regime, even though it put out a belated declaration that Putin had “coordinated” the move with President Assad in a phone call.

Earnest said the United States had no “direct advance notice” of the withdrawal. A senior administration official added that there was no “strategic grand bargain” between Washington and Moscow. Russian State TV showed the first group of withdrawn planes arriving at Voronezh in western Russia on Tuesday, with pilots and other personnel greeted by families and friends. Meanwhile, some of the remaining warplanes reportedly attacked the Islamic State in support of an offensive by Hezbollah and the Syrian military on Palmyra, the Roman-era city captured by ISIS last May.