Syria: Russia attacks areas controlled by anti-Assad fighters

On 30 September 2015 Russia launched its first air strikes against Syrian targets.

Despite Russian official position that its involvement in Syria is directed against Islamic State, these first strikes were not directed against IS, nor were they even conducted in areas with any IS presence. Instead, Russia chose to attack those areas near the cities of Homs and Hama which are controlled by the non-jihadist Syrian rebels fighting against Assad regime, including the rebels receiving training and support from the US and their allies.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/

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Afghanistan: Taliban claims taking over more territory after the city of Kunduz

While the Afghan government is trying to take back Kunduz, Taliban claims* it has also taken over districts of Ashkamesh, Yangi Kala and Bangi. All three of these districts are located in the northern Afghanistan, to the east and north-east of Kunduz. If confirmed, this information will indicate establishment of a considerable territorial base under Taliban control in the north of the country.

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* See the relevant Taliban statements below:

http://shahamat-english.com/ishkamish-district-conquered-in-countrys-north/

http://shahamat-english.com/yangi-qala-district-liberated/

http://shahamat-english.com/mujahideen-take-control-of-another-district-in-takhar-2/

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Afghanistan. Press View Larger Map for better view: 

Afghanistan: Taliban takes the city of Kunduz

On 28 September 2015 Taliban forces have taken Kunduz – a key city in northern Afghanistan. Kunduz also is the first provincial capital to be controlled by Taliban since their fall from power in late 2001.

This is another victory for Taliban since withdrawal of the main forces of the Western coalition in 2014. A number of other locations in Afghanistan were taken over by Taliban during 2015. Another faction in Afghanistan’s ongoing war is Islamic State, which has recently gained some territory in the east of the country.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Afghanistan. Press View Larger Map for better view: 

China completes a new airstrip in South China Sea

China has completed its construction of the airstrip on Fiery Cross Reef. This is the second new airstrip on disputed islands of South China Sea after the one constructed on the Woody Island.

Fiery Cross Reef is a part of the Spartly Islands, which China seeks to claim as its own against competing claims by Vietnam, Philippines and Malaysia. China has been conducting works on a number of islets and reefs in order to artificially increase their territory to use it for various facilities, including, crucially, airstrips. These airstrips can then be used for military air patrols of the disputed waters of South China Sea.

China’s sovereignty over South China Sea would mean its control over a crucial waterway of global importance, seriously strengthening China’s geopolitical position. That is why Chinese claims of such sovereignty are resisted not just by countries like Vietnam and Philippines which would be affected in terms of territorial loss, but also by key maritime powers invested in security of Asian sea routes – U.S., Japan and India. Chinese air bases in the midst of the disputed waters constitute a serious step towards actual enforcement of Chinese territorial claims. This is the road which will eventually lead either to China’s unilateral success if the opposing powers don’t dare to draw and enforce a red line, or a potentially dangerous confrontation if they do.

Chinese air bases map

France launches air strikes against IS in Syria

On 27 September 2015 France launched its first strikes against Islamic State in Syria.

France already used to conduct air strikes against IS in Iraq, as well as support Iraqi Kurds in their fight against IS. Now the French have expanded their efforts by joining the air campaign in Syria.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/

Russia expands its deployment in Syria

Russia is continuing to expand its interference in the war in Syria, with additional military base construction and deployment of more assets. Significantly, these assets now include those with anti-air capability. This development is another indication that fight against IS (which has no air force) is only a pretext, while Russia’s actual objective is protection of the Assad regime.

According to The Telegraph, Russia now has 500 troops, 28 warplanes (including 4 SU-27 fighters designed for air-to-air combat), 15 military helicopters and at least two batteries of SA-22 surface-to-air missiles deployed in Latakia, Tartus and the airport south of Latakia, while constructing additional military facilities nearby, in Al-Sanobar.

Russian deployment of anti-air capabilities could interfere with the activities of the anti-IS coalition led by United States, which conducts daily air operations in the Syrian airspace. Another issue is possible conflict with Israeli forces which periodically attack Syrian targets when they believe there is a threat of transfer of certain types of weapons to Hezbollah.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/

Australia, France make new steps in the struggle against jihadists, 15-16 September 2015

On 16 September 2015 Australia expanded its air campaign against Islamic State to include Syria, besides Iraq. Considering preparations by Britain and France to do the same in the near future, Australia’s step is an indication of the concerted effort by the Western powers to strengthen their effort in Syria, where possible collapse of the Assad regime could open the gates for expansion of the IS-controlled territory.

While the Syrian Kurds have managed to keep IS at bay (with Western support), they are virtually incapable of projecting their power beyond Kurdish-populated territory, which is limited to relatively small parts of northern Syria. Combined with the current weakness of the non-jihadist Syrian rebels, this means that increased effort to weaken IS in Syria is of cardinal importance. Thus, inclusion of the Syrian territory in the Western allies’ air campaign is a logical development.

Meanwhile, on 15 September 2015 France pledged to provide equipment, intelligence and financial support to Nigeria for its fight against Boko Haram.

France is the leading power in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel region. The French are currently engaged in military operations against jihadist rebels that involve Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauretania. Boko Haram, which is active in the northern parts of Nigeria and Cameroon, represents an additional complication. If it managed to establish firm territorial control over the northern parts of these two states, France would have another threat for the Sahel countries to cope with. Hence the effort to help Nigeria contain Boko Haram insurgency.

Yemen: Egypt joins the fight

On 8 September 2015 Egyptian ground forces arrived in Yemen to fight against the Houthis on the side of the Sunni coalition.

Just like in Libya, key powers of the Sunni Arab alliance are demonstrating readiness to act in concert, including common military action, when their core interests are threatened. In Libya they confront Turkey’s influence. In Yemen they fight against Iran. The difference is that in Libya, at least initially, Qatar was breaking the ranks and participating on the side of Turkey and Muslim Brotherhood against the Arab coalition. In Yemen, however, Qatar is now fighting together with its fellow Gulf monarchies.

Egypt’s direct military intervention in Yemen, which is occurring simultaneously with the one by Qatar, shows determination of the Sunni Arab alliance to deal with the Iranian-backed regime in Sana’a decisively.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Yemen. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/yemen-war-map/

Syria: Islamic State captures Jazal oil field from the government forces

Islamic State forces captured Jazal oil field, east of Homs, on 8 September 2015.

This is another blow for the Assad forces in the area, after IS captured Al Quaryatayn town 85 km south-west from Jazal oil field on 7 August 2015. Also, this was the last Syrian government-controlled oil field.

Meanwhile, the war in Syria is attracting additional involvement by foreign powers, as Britain and France are considering expansion of their air campaign against IS to include Syria besides Iraq, while Russia has stepped up its military support of the Assad forces.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Syria & Iraq. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/syria-iraq-war-map/

Yemen: Qatar joins campaign with its ground troops

On 7 September 2015 the word spread that Qatar has sent to Yemen around 1000 troops with more than 200 armored vehicles and 30 Apache combat helicopters. The troops will reportedly join the Sunni coalition forces fighting against the Houthis in the Marib province. More Qatari forces are expected in the near future.

Saudi Arabia and UAE are already engaged in the war in Yemen with both their air power and ground troops. Now they have been joined by Qatar, who until now refrained from direct military participation while diplomatically supporting the Saudi and Emirati campaign.

While Qatar used to play its own game in the Middle East, being more aligned to Turkey than to its fellow Gulf monarchies, around December 2014 Qatar somewhat changed its foreign strategy. Now it obviously is making more efforts to coordinate its own actions with Saudi Arabia than it used to. Qatar’s direct engagement in the Yemen War, which pits the Gulf Arabian monarchies’ interests against those of Iran, is another indication of this change.

As to the military situation itself, after making considerable territorial gains against Houthis in August 2015, the Sunni coalition forces are now engaged in positional fighting with Houthis, mainly in the areas of Taiz and Marib.

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Regularly updated interactive map of war in Yemen. Press View Larger Map for better view:

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The permanent page of this interactive map is here: 

https://stratreview.wordpress.com/yemen-war-map/