Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast and near Bakhmut on September 30. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol direction (western Zaporizhia Oblast) and near Bakhmut. Russian milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces conducted unsuccessful ground attacks near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut), Andriivka (10km southwest of Bakhmut), Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv), Novoprokopivka (13km south of Orikhiv), and Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv). A fringe Russian milblogger reportedly affiliated with the Russian Airborne (VDV) forces implicitly recanted claims from September 24 that Ukrainian forces occupy half of Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv). The fringe milblogger claimed on September 29 that elements of the 7th Guards VDV Division still hold Verbove despite suffering losses.
Pro-regime forces are helping the Arab tribes sustain their fight against the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which may facilitate the expulsion of the SDF from parts of their territory. The coalition between the SDF and Arab tribes in Deir ez Zor Province is fracturing amid clashes over long-standing grievances. The tribal insurgency explicitly aims to expel the SDF from Deir ez Zor and establish a governance system led by tribal leaders. Insurgent leader Ibrahim al Hifl said on September 14 that the insurgents aimed to manage the region through the tribes and its “uprising” will not stop until the SDF is expelled. Pro-regime forces immediately seized the opportunity to threaten the SDF by sending forces into SDF-controlled territory after the arrest of a local leader which triggered the clashes on August 27. Since then, regime forces have attempted to prolong conflict in SDF-controlled territory and even redirect grievances toward the US-led International Coalition. Pro-regime support to the tribes to prolong the conflict with the SDF supports the coordinated campaign that Iran, Russia, and the Syrian regime began forming in November 2022 to expel the United States from Syria.
Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast and in the Bakhmut area on September 29. Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces attacked north of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) and near Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) and Novoprokopivka (13km south of Orikhiv) on September 28 and 29. Russian milbloggers claimed on September 29 that Ukrainian forces unsuccessfully attempted to advance east of the railway line south of Bakhmut near Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut) and Kurdyumivka (13km southwest of Bakhmut) and reported heavy fighting across the Klishchiivka-Andriivka-Kurdyumivka line.
The Kuomintang (KMT) seeks to lead a joint presidential ballot with the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) and is unlikely to obtain a compromise deal with the TPP in the coming two weeks.
The imported egg scandal shifted the presidential electoral narrative away from cross-strait relations over the past two weeks, and the dominant narrative of the election as a choice between peace and war is likely to reemerge in the next two weeks.
The CCP aims to economically integrate the ROC-controlled offshore island of Kinmen with the PRC province of Fujian, which could allow the CCP to exacerbate domestic ROC internal divisions over cross-strait engagement with the PRC.
Iraq and Syria. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) attacks against civilians in eastern Syria are contributing to popular grievances and may cause the tribal insurgency to expand geographically. CTP is tracking several indicators that would suggest either a contraction or expansion of the tribal insurgency in northeastern Syria.
Mali. The resumption of fighting between the Malian government and non-jihadist Tuareg rebels will likely enable al Qaeda–linked militants to further ingratiate themselves with communities in northern Mali, potentially establishing de facto control and shadow governance in some nominally rebel-controlled areas. Growing control in northern Mali will enable al Qaeda–linked militants to pose a greater transnational threat.
Pakistan. Afghan Taliban and Pakistani officials met in Kabul on September 21 to resolve hostilities over border-security issues, including cross-border Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacks. The Taliban refused to publicly mention measures against the TTP, which suggests it will not stop the group from conducting attacks in Pakistan.
Afghanistan. Iran claimed it conducted raids targeting IS-affiliated militants in West Azerbaijan Province who Iran alleged were planning coordinated bomb attacks in Tehran, Iran. Iranian state media suggested these militants were connected to Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) and ISIS.
Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 28. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction and in the Bakhmut direction. The “Storm Ossetia” and “Alania” volunteer battalions claimed that unspecified sources continue to spread false information about a Ukrainian breakthrough in the Robotyne-Verbove area, possibly referring to a fringe Russian milblogger’s claims on September 22 and 23 that Ukrainian forces advanced into Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv). ISW has been unable to confirm this report and will not continue to record it in the absence of visual confirmation or similar claims from other Russian sources.
Iran deployed 50 reconnaissance officers to eastern Syria as it pursues multiple operations to secure military assets, conduct counter terrorism operations, and expel the United States from Syria. The reconnaissance officers deployed to four major cities on September 26 in eastern Syria with unspecified orders, according to local opposition media. The deployments could support the following ongoing Iranian lines of effort in eastern Syria.
Ukrainian forces marginally advanced near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 27. Geolocated footage published on September 26 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced near Orikhovo-Vasylivka (10km northwest of Bakhmut). Additional geolocated footage published on September 26 indicates that Russian forces likely no longer control a roughly one-kilometer-long trench line west of Verbove (16km southeast of Orikhiv). The absence of Russian forces in this trench line could facilitate further Ukrainian advances in this area, as this trench line is no longer a significant obstacle for Ukrainian forces. Ukrainian Tavriisk Group of Forces Commander Brigadier General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi stated that “there will be good news” in the Zaporizhia operational direction and noted that Ukrainian forces are steadily advancing but did not provide additional information.
The tactical situation in Verbove remains unclear as Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 26. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) direction and offensive actions in the Bakhmut direction. A Kremlin-affiliated milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces reached the northern outskirts of Novoprokopivka (13km south of Orikhiv). Russian sources have still not directly addressed a claim from a source reportedly affiliated with the Russian Airborne (VDV) Forces that Ukrainian forces control half of Verbove (18km southeast of Orikhiv) as of September 24. ISW has not observed evidence of such a Ukrainian advance, and the source reporting it has a very small following. It is still noteworthy that other VDV-connected sources have not responded to these claims.
The People’s Republic of China and Syria signed several development and technology cooperation agreements on September 22, which may compete with reconstruction agreements that Iran and Syria signed in May.
A drone strike near Mayadin City on September 25 caused multiple casualties among the Iranian-affiliated Arab tribesmen who were deploying to Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)-controlled territory in eastern Syria. The deployment of Arab tribesmen to combat the SDF is consistent with ISW’s assessment that the tribal insurgency will likely support Iran’s efforts to establish a grassroots resistance to expel US forces from Syria.