US Colonel Steve Warren, Director of Defense Press Operations and Spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), the US military operation against the so-called Islamic State, claimed that it was hard to interpret Russian intentions towards the extremist group.
The US-led coalition, which has been fighting against the so-called Islamic State, notes that some Russian military aircraft and troops left Syria, but their main forces there remain mostly unchanged.
This was announced by Colonel Warren on Wednesday during a video conference from Iraq. He noted that eight to ten Russian planes had left Syria and a number of small infantry forces near the airport had packed up to go home.
At the same time, he added, the air combat operations continue, though they haven’t carried out any air strikes. Russian artillery units that support the Syrian troops, who are fighting against the so-called Islamic State near Palmyra, remain in position, the Pentagon's representative said.
"It is difficult to understand the intentions of the Russians,” Warren said. "First of all, we did not expect this announcement, so we have to compare their words with their actions, waiting for the situation to clear up."
Western diplomats believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin is trying to put pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to force him to accept a political settlement of the conflict. Putin unexpectedly announced that most of the Russian troops will be withdrawn from Syria. This statement was made when the parties of the conflict resumed the peace talks and a cessation of the hostilities significantly reduced the violence.
According to Warren, only a relatively small reduction in air combat power was noticed. Equally insignificant was the withdrawal of ground troops, he said.
Warren said that "fairly significant reduction" of hostilities between the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his moderate opposition happened after the peace talks began. However, Assad's forces continue the offensive against the militants of the so-called Islamic state in Palmyra, and "our overall assessment... is that the regime can continue the offensive, if it will receive Russian air support" he said.