After a request from the Syrian government for military assistance against rebel groups, the Russian military intervened in the Syrian civil War. It was also known as the Russian invasion of Syria by The Syrian Opposition. Initial air strikes were conducted by Russian aircraft at the Khmeimim base, against targets in northern Syria and the Army of Conquest. Russian military advisors and special operations forces are also deployed to Syria. Before the intervention, Russian participation in the Syrian Civil War was primarily limited to supplying the Syrian Army arms and equipment. The Russian government declared that its troops would be permanently deployed to Syria at the end of December 2017. This was in addition to fighting terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State. Russian officials are quoted as saying that Russia's goal is to help the Syrian government retake territory from anti-government groups. These groups were labeled by the United States and American-led intervention as'moderate opposition'. A larger geopolitical objective is to reduce U.S. influence. In a televised interview, Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, stated that the military operation was well-prepared. He also said that Russia wanted to help the Syrian government retake territory from various anti-government groups. The US-led intervention in Syria in 2016 saw the retaking of Palmyra, the capital of Syria, and the breaking of the three-year-old siege of Deir ez-Zor. Russia regained control of the city in November 2017. The Chief of the Russian Armed Forces' General Staff Valery Gerasimov stated that the Russian Air Force had conducted 19,160 combat missions and carried out 71,000 strikes against terrorist infrastructure. The Russian defense minister stated at the end of December 2017 that several thousand terrorists had been eliminated and that 48,000 Russian service members had gained combat experience during the Russian operation to Syria.