US cautious on Putin order for Syria withdrawal

The White House offered a cautious initial response to President Vladimir Putin`s surprise order Monday to withdraw some Russian military forces from Syria.

District of Columbia: The White House offered a cautious initial response to President Vladimir Putin`s surprise order Monday to withdraw some Russian military forces from Syria.

"We will have to see exactly what Russia`s intentions are," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said minutes after Putin`s televised comments.

Putin ordered his defense minister to begin withdrawing from Tuesday "the main part of our military contingents from the Syrian Arab Republic."

His shock announcement -- after months of operations to prop up Assad`s regime -- was greeted with skepticism by many observers.

Putin launched air strikes in September followed by a massive troop deployment, turning the tide of a long and brutal war in Assad`s favor, rescuing his regime from the brink of collapse.

But there was also some hope Putin`s latest gambit could signal a willingness to accept Assad`s exit or lead to a breakthrough in peace talks in Geneva, which began Monday.

Opposition groups, the United States and key European countries have called on Assad to go as part of a negotiated transition.

"We have talked about how Russia`s continued military intervention to prop up the Assad regime made the efforts to reach a political transition even more difficult," said Earnest.

"It`s hard for me to assess what sorts of implications this will have on the talks what sort of change it will bring about to that dynamic."