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Pentagon doubts Russian pledge to withdraw from Syria

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) during their meeting in Sochi, Russia on 21 November 2017 [Kremlin Press Office/ Anadolu Agency]
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad (L) during their meeting in Sochi, Russia on 21 November 2017 [Kremlin Press Office/ Anadolu Agency]

Russian statements on the withdrawal of its forces from Syria "do not typically correspond" with the situation on the ground, the Pentagon said Monday.

"Russian comments about the removal of their forces do not often correspond with actual troop reductions and they do not impact [US] priorities in Syria," Pentagon spokesperson Military Col. Rob Manning told reporters at a press briefing.

Manning's statement follows an announcement by the commander of the Russian forces in Syria, Colonel General Sergei Surovikin, that Russia will withdraw its 23 combat aircraft, two helicopters, special force units, military police and area security personnel from Syria following an announcement earlier in the day by Russian President Vladimir Putin declaring "victory" in Syria during a surprise visit to a military base there.

Read: US agency to help Iraq recover from Daesh despite Trump aid cuts

Manning said the US-led global coalition will continue to operate and support local forces in Syria to complete the military defeat of the Daesh terror group and make sure it cannot reestablish safe heavens in the region.

He also said members of the SDF, a US-backed force comprised of PKK/PYD fighters, met with Iraqi leaders near their shared border on 10 December to confirm their commitment as they continued clearance operations in their areas.

"They met in order to confirm their commitment ensuring that ISIS (Daesh) will not take root again," Manning said in response to a question by Anadolu Agency about the purpose of the meeting.

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