Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy in Syria said that there is no reason for U.S. forces to remain in Syria and that Washington's stated reasons for maintaining a military presence there are groundless.
Alexander Lavrentiev was speaking on Thursday in Astana, Kazakhstan, ahead of a new round of Syrian peace talks between Russia, Iran and Turkey.
"Any reasons cited by the Americans to justify their further military presence are just excuses and we think their presence must end," he told reporters.
Putin ordered the withdrawal of Russian troops from Syria on Dec. 11, during his surprise visit to a Russian air base in the war-torn country on Monday.
"The task of fighting armed bandits here in Syria, a task that it was essential to solve with the help of extensive use of armed force, has for the most part, been solved and solved spectacularly," he said.
"I congratulate you," Putin told Russian servicemen after his meeting with the Syrian regime's leader Bashar Assad.
He was also quoted as saying that Russia would keep the Khmeimim Air Base as well as a naval facility at the Syrian port of Tartous.
The U.S. responded to the Kremlin move to withdraw troops from Syria two days later on Dec. 13, saying the decision was premature in the fight against Daesh.
"We think the Russian declarations of [Daesh's] defeat is premature," a White House National Security Council spokeswoman told reporters. "We have repeatedly seen in recent history that a premature declaration of victory was followed by a failure to consolidate military gains, stabilize the situation and create the conditions that prevent terrorists from reemerging."
Russia has supported the Syrian regime against Daesh, while the U.S. has partnered with the PKK terror organization's Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party's (PYD) armed People's Protection Units (YPG).