Have some of Russian troops withdrawn from Syria since Putin's announcement in december 2017?


On 11 december 2017, Vladimir Putin announced that Russian army would partially withdraw from Syria.

"In two years, the Russian armed forces, together with the Syrian army, have defeated the most lethal group of international terrorists," Tass quoted Putin as saying. "In this regard, I have decided that a significant part of the Russian military contingent in the Syrian Arab Republic is returning home to Russia."

Russian military contingent is (officially) operating in Syria since the autumn of 2015. But it is not the first time Putin declares he want to pull the troops out. He already did so in march 2016 but it seems this communication was never followed by a real withdrawal.

Has there been an actual pull out of Russian Army since 11 december 2017 ?

Is there any difference in the numbers or in the nature of Russian troops in Syria in may 2018 compared to december 2017 ?

As there been further communication of Russian officials about the calendar of the withdrawal, about the quantity of troops that are planned to leave or remain in Syria, or about any rescheduling ?

N.B. : This question is just about the factual existence or non-existence of the withdrawal. For any discussion about Putin's motivations for announcing a pull out, please refer to this other question.


Posted 2018-05-23T14:56:33.347

Reputation: 5 639

2Not an answer since I can't back this up, but their aerial campaign has quieted down, and there's less de-mining to be done after IS' territory has been mostly cleared, so there's probably been redeployment of some forces. – einpoklum – 2018-05-23T14:58:57.450

@einpoklum : good remark, but AFAIU, most of the de-mining in areas controlled by the Syria-Russia-Iran-Hezbollah-milicias coalition were not done by Russia but by Iran. – Evargalo – 2018-05-23T15:01:19.013

I don't think so... see this batch of search results. I particularly remember lots of news stories about Russian sappers in Halab (Aleppo).

– einpoklum – 2018-05-23T15:40:19.103

@einpoklum : Maybe you're right. I can also find links about Iran de-mining operations, but maybe I misappreciated the respective parts of both armies : https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-mideast-crisis-iraq-nujaba-specialrep/the-iraqi-militia-helping-iran-carve-a-road-to-damascus-idUKKCN1BX11L That could be for another question...

– Evargalo – 2018-05-23T15:47:44.090



This is only assumption answer, because official data are secreted.

Here is some satellite images from Syrian Tias air base(https://cont.ws/@colonel-cassad/949571), and further (the same bloger) you can find more satellite images from other Syrian air bases. Comparing these images, you may make a summary, that generally, forces are at place. The main part of russian forces are air and radioelectronic forces, covered by air defence systems, and its core is in place, I think.

And above all: russian foreign minister Lavrov claimed ,that russian forces will stay while they are in need by Syrian goverment(http://tass.ru/politika/5214795/). Russia has a mandate for operating there from the Syrian goverment, so there is no reasons to pull out forces while US forces are still hanging around.


Posted 2018-05-23T14:56:33.347

Reputation: 1

Downvoters, please, leave your comments. It's interesting for me to know your motivation. – user2501323 – 2018-05-24T11:46:51.653

I didn't downvote : The impressions from satelite data and the Lavrov statement are helpful, thanks for the research. But I wonder about the last sentence. 1.The motivation for the withdrawal announcement seems to be that Assad needs less Russian troops to keep control than in 2015-17. 2. What's the link with US forces ? First they are very few compared to Russians, second they have never been mentioned as a reason for Russian presence in Syria. – Evargalo – 2018-05-24T14:54:23.483

1.But he still needs them. And I doubt if there will be no bases after the war ends. All is around mandate. If Syrian goverment somehow calls it back, there will be another situation. 2.Air-defence systems were placed there since the very beginning. They will prevent Lybian or Yugoslavian scenario if necessary. – user2501323 – 2018-05-24T14:58:18.490

Following your Tass link to the original Lavrov itw fro Clarin, he even said "Then, in December 2017, Russia withdrew most of its military contingent from the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic. However, Russia's mission in Syria is not over yet." (https://www.clarin.com/mundo/entrevista-serguei-lavrov-decepcionados-decision-donald-trump-retirarse-acuerdo-nuclear-iran_0_SyWpndhCf.html + Goggle translation). If other sources could be found confirming this, that would make a complete answer.

– Evargalo – 2018-05-24T15:17:52.653

will try to find it. But, really, this is searching in the darkness - even satellite images cannot give full situation. But there is some reason - war is near its end – user2501323 – 2018-05-24T15:23:35.157

"war is near its end" is quite what Soviets thought in Afghanistan in 1980, what US thought in Vietnam in 1970 or in Irak and Afghanistan in 2005, what Russia thought in Syria in 2016, and each time the withdrawal of the foreign force took much longer than expected... – Evargalo – 2018-05-24T15:37:55.837

There is a big difference - during that wars US and USSR have "boots on the ground" - their ground forces took part in conflicts. Russian part of Syrian war is just air and air defence support. That is a big difference. And a much more difference in casualties. – user2501323 – 2018-05-25T06:01:46.087