Russian president Vladimir Putin has said the US aim to withdraw its military from Syria is the right decision, but questioned whether it would actually occur.
Donald Trump, US president, has faced domestic criticism, including from within his own Republican party, after he announced on Wednesday that US troops would withdraw from the war-torn country. Russia has long accused the US of being there illegally and says it is the only legitimate foreign military power in Syria.
“If this decision has really been made, then it is the right decision,” Mr Putin said at a nationally-broadcast news conference on Thursday. “The presence of US troops is illegitimate and illegal.”
Mr Trump sought to counter criticism that he was abandoning American allies in the region through a precipitous withdrawal, writing on Twitter that it was “time for others to finally fight”.
“Does the USA want to be the Policeman of the Middle East, getting NOTHING but spending precious lives and trillions of dollars protecting others who, in almost all cases, do not appreciate what we are doing?” he wrote.
Mr Putin said he was sceptical about whether Mr Trump would end the American presence, which includes about 2,000 troops in the north of the country training Kurdish fighters.
“As for the withdrawal: I am not sure about what that means,” the Russian president said. “The US forces have been in Afghanistan for 17 years and every year they talk about withdrawing. But they are still there.”
“We do not see any signs of the US withdrawal from Syria but we see that it is possible,” he said.
Mr Putin also said that he broadly agreed with Mr Trump that Isis had been defeated in Syria.
“Yes, Donald Trump is right about that,” he said. “I do generally agree with the President of the US. We achieved some major advances when it comes to defeating terrorists and struck major blows against groups in Syria.”
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