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Vladimir Putin Welcomes U.S. Withdrawal From Syria

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Thursday welcomed President Trump’s announcement of a withdrawal of American troops from Syria, calling it “The right decision.” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday that he was ordering the withdrawal because the United States military had achieved its goal of defeating the Islamic State militant group in Syria.

Speaking at his annual news conference, which typically runs for several hours, Mr. Putin said he broadly agreed that the Islamic State had been defeated in Syria.

The Russian leader expressed skepticism that American forces would actually withdraw, as the United States had announced a pullout from Afghanistan by 2014 but still has forces in that country today.

“How long has the United States been in Afghanistan? Seventeen years? And almost every year they say they’re pulling out their troops.” Regarding Syria, he said, Mr. Trump made the right decision because the American troops are in the country illegally, never having been invited by the Syrian government, as Russian forces were.

The United States had backed opponents of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, though the approximately 2,000 American troops in the country have mostly avoided direct combat with the Russian-backed Syrian Army and its proxies.

Russia and the United States have observed a “De-conflicting” agreement to avoid direct engagement between their armed forces.

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/world/europe/putin-trump-syria.html

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