Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday he backed US counterpart Donald Trump’s decision to order troops back home from Syria after declaring victory over Islamic State jihadists.
“The fact that the US has decided to withdraw its troops is right,” Putin said during his annual press conference.
Trump on Wednesday declared in a video message that “we won” and said that the troops are “coming back now.”
Putin said that “as concerns victory over IS, on the whole I agree with the US president,” adding that “we have dealt serious blows against IS in Syria.”
Nevertheless he cast doubt on Washington’s actions, saying “we don’t see any signs of withdrawing US troops yet, but I concede that it is possible.”
Putin reaffirmed the long-held Russian argument that the US presence in Syria is illegitimate because it hasn’t been vetted by the UN Security Council or approved by Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Along with Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah terror group, Russia is a key ally of Assad, and its military intervention beginning in 2015 turned the tide of the war in his favor.
A Syrian member of parliament, Peter Marjana, said Thursday that a US pullout would be a “recognition that Syria has won.”
Trump’s contention that IS has been defeated contradicted his own experts’ assessments and shocked Republican lawmakers, who called his decision rash and dangerous.
The announced pullout also raised concern in Israel, which has warned of Iran’s efforts to establish a military presence in Syria and has carried out airstrikes on Iranian-linked targets there.
Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria has rattled Washington’s Kurdish allies, who are its most reliable partner in the country and among the most effective ground forces battling IS. With US air support, the Kurds drove IS from much of northern and eastern Syria in a costly four-year campaign.