He added that today’s move would send a “good signal” to the parties to the conflict, help raise trust and help serve as a stimulus for Syria’s political talks. Western diplomats speculated that Putin may be trying to press Assad into accepting a political settlement to the war. Putin made his surprise announcement, that came with no advance word to the United States. Russian forces had largely fulfilled their objectives in Syria, Putin said. He gave no deadline for the completion of the withdrawal. An U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Washington was encouraged by Putin’s announcement but that it was too early to say what it means. In Damascus, the Syrian presidency said in a statement that Assad had agreed to the reduction in the Russian air force presence.