WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — During an unannounced visit to the Hmeimim airbase in Latakia on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria to their permanent bases after two years of an anti-terrorist aerial campaign conducted in the country.
The Russian leader also met at the Hmeimim airbase with Syrian President Bashar Assad.
However, Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve's press office told Sputnik also on Monday that more fighting would have to take place to eliminate the remaining pockets of Daesh terrorists in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
REAL US MILITARY AIM IN SYRIA TO PROMOTE SAUDI, ISRAELI GOALS
Pennsylvania State University faculty associate in Middle East Studies and human rights activist Jennifer Loewenstein warned that the continuing US military presence in Syria was intended to further the ends of US allies Saudi Arabia and Israel, and would pose danger to hopes of any lasting peace in the region.
"Judging from the alliances that are forming — and becoming more solidified — my guess is that with US sponsorship, Israel and Saudi Arabia (suddenly 'good friends') are pursuing their goal to keep Syria destabilized in any way possible," Loewenstein said.
As Putin’s announcement revealed, the presence of the US troops in Syria could no longer be allegedly justified or rationalized on the grounds that they were needed to fight Daesh, Lowenstein pointed out.
"The bigger question is why US troops are there now at all, especially since the Islamic State (Daesh) has been defeated (at least territorially)?" she asked.
The United States, backed by Saudi Arabia and Israel, wanted to maintain and extend its military power in Syria as a base to threaten and counter Iran, Loewenstein observed.
"The 'threat' Iran poses with its influence growing across the region is too much for these countries to bear," she said.
As a result, "We have only more war and hostility to look forward to," she said.
Instead of bringing peace, the continued US military deployment in Syria threatened to undermine the best hope for a lasting peace in the region since the end of World War I a century ago, Loewenstein warned.
"Never mind that making peace with Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah could bring genuine stability and regional independence to the region for the first time since the early Ottoman Empire," she said.
The Department of Defense recently admitted that more than 1,700 US troops were currently operating within the territories of Syria, more than three times the figure it had previously acknowledged.
"It would surprise me if US military spokesmen told the public the exact number of troops we have in Syria — or anywhere else. This is probably true for most countries. Defense and national security issues are generally kept quiet, if not secret," she said.
US FORCES IN SYRIA CARRY OUT SECRET, SENSITIVE MISSIONS
Independent Institute Center for Peace & Freedom Director Ivan Eland added that the US forces still operating within Syria were certain to be elite forces charged with politically sensitive operations.
"Likely they are Special Forces on secret counter-terrorism missions," he said.
Russia began a military campaign in Syria in late September 2015 at the request of Assad to fight Daesh terror group. For the past two years, the Russian army has performed hundreds of airstrikes.
During the Syrian campaign, Russian troops have cleared out more than 90 percent of Daesh-held territories, including the ancient city of Palmyra.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, more than 54,000 terrorists were killed during joint operations in Syria. Russia still helps Syrian civilians by delivering humanitarian aid and providing medical support on a daily basis.
The views and opinions expressed by Jennifer Loewenstein and Ivan Eland are those of the analysts and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.