Russia claims it is pulling army from Syria

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Russia announced on Friday that it is withdrawing its aircraft carrier and some other Russian warships from the waters off Syria as the first step in a drawdown of its forces in the war-torn Mideast country
According to Russian General Staff chief Gen. Valery Gerasimov, the Admiral Kuznetsov carrier and accompanying ships are to be the first to leave.
The declaration comes a week after Russia and Turkey brokered a cease-fire in Syria, following a decisive Moscow-backed victory for the regime of President Bashar Assad over the opposition in the city of Aleppo.
It’s also the second time Moscow has announced scaling back its military presence in Syria since Russia threw its military weight behind the Syrian regime in September 2015.
Russia’s support, with airstrikes and military advisers — along with the boosting of its arsenal and a naval base on the Syrian coast — changed the course of the civil war, now in its sixth year, in favor of Assad.
“In accordance with the decision by the supreme commander-in-chief (President) Vladimir Putin, the Defense Ministry is starting to downsize the grouping of armed forces in Syria,” Gerasimov said.
He did not give further details on the force reduction, which follows an order by Putin on Dec. 29.
Last March, Putin also ordered the Russian military to withdraw most of its forces from Syria, timing his declaration with a brief cease-fire in place at the time, one that was brokered by Moscow and Washington, and the launch of peace talks that took place in Geneva. The latest declaration appeared designed to cast Russia as a peacemaker.
The regime’s army Chief of Staff Gen. Ali Ayoub visited the aircraft carrier on Friday, according to Syrian state television. He said Admiral Kuznetsov has become “part and parcel of the history of war on terrorism,” according to Al-Ikhbariya TV. He added that “signs of victory” loom after all the Syria military sacrifices and “Russia’s honorable position.”
Separately, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that President Barack Obama didn’t backtrack on his “red line” warning about Syrian chemical weapons.
But the top US diplomat said the incorrect perception that Obama didn’t enforce the red line in 2013 hurt US credibility.
Kerry maintained that Obama never reversed a decision to use military force if Syria’s government used chemical weapons.
Kerry told reporters that Obama instead opted for a better solution: Syria giving up its declared chemical weapon stockpiles.
And he said the “unfair perception” that Obama backed down on the military option caused damage. Kerry also urged President-elect Donald Trump to stay the course on several of the administration’s foreign policy initiatives amid concerns he may roll back much of Obama’s legacy.

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