Tactical Talk (Update) Vladimir Putin is not pulling all of his forces out of Syria or ending his military support to the Assad regime. His just-announced “withdrawal” serves political, military operational, diplomatic, and possibly strategic purposes, but its actual significance for operations in Syria is minimal.
Its significance for the long-term correlation of forces in the Mediterranean, however, is dire.
The intensity of Russia’s air campaign in Syria dropped markedly after the United Nations sponsored “cessation of hostilities” began on February 27, 2016. But Russian airstrikes are still hitting opposition groups that have received U.S. support throughout Syria, along with ISIS and Al Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al Nusra.
These strikes will likely persist for some time, since Russian officials say that “counter-terrorism” operations will continue, and negotiations in Geneva will not end the fighting on the ground. The Syrian regime is actually readying offensive operations against ISIS-held Palmyra, and Russian airstrikes have begun to hit areas near Palmyra in recent days.