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Russian Air Strikes To Continue Despite Syria Military Withdrawal

REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

The Russian withdrawal from Syria will not be a complete one, according to a Russian military official. In fact, Russia intends to continue air strikes and keep assets ranging from air defense systems to as many as 800 troops inside the country.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov told BBC Tuesday Russia’s campaign to galvanize Syrian President Bashar Assad may have been successful, but the fight against terrorism still remains a concern. In order to counter the terrorist threat, Russia will continue to engage in air strikes and leave several other military assets in place.

“Certain positive results have been achieved … However, it is too early to talk about victory over terrorism. A Russian air group has the task of continuing to strike terrorist facilities,” said Pankov.

In addition, the chief of the Russian Defense Committee Viktor Ozerov said two battalions, around 800 soldiers, will remain on the ground to defend the key military facilities in Hmeimim and the naval port of Tartus. Sergey Ivanov, chief of staff of the Kremlin, confirmed Russia’s S-400 missile defense system will also stay. The S-400 is Russia’s most advanced air defense system and utilizes surface-to-air missiles to defend against both aircraft and ballistic missiles.

“We are leaving completely reliable cover for the remaining contingent … To effectively ensure security, including from the air, we need the most modern air defense systems,” said Ivanov to Russian media.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Russia would begin withdrawing troops from Syria Monday, a reduction from the 3,000 to 6,000 believed to be in the country.

In an effort to combat the terrorism threat posed by Islamic State, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hinted towards the possibility of coordination with the U.S. in operations to retake the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa in Syria.

“Perhaps, this is no secret, if I say that at some stage the Americans suggested performing a ‘division of labor’: the Russian Air Forces should concentrate on the liberation of Palmyra, and the American coalition with Russian support will focus on the liberation of Raqqa,” said Lavrov.

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