Taliban contest or control large areas of Afghanistan

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The New York Times has produced a map that highlights the Taliban’s reach in Afghanistan. The data for the map was provided by The Long War Journal. The Taliban have a pervasive influence in large swaths of the country; half of Afghanistan is either contested by the Taliban or under Taliban control. The map highlights the challenges the US and NATO face as they prepare to ‘surge’ more forces into the country to wrest control from the Taliban, reestablish security and governance, and transition security to the beleaguered Afghan government.

The criteria for determining Taliban control, contested, or influenced areas:

Taliban control: Districts/agencies where the Taliban operate a parallel political administration and effectively control the bulk of the regions. In these areas, the Taliban will often declare sharia law; run courts, recruiting centers, and tax offices; and maintain security forces. The police and military are nonexistent or are confined to barracks. The Taliban also host camps for al Qaeda and other jihadi groups in the region.

Contested control: Districts/agencies where the Taliban may still control regions but are actively being opposed by the civil administrations. The Taliban attacks and assassinations of religious, political, and tribal leaders are often the worst in these areas, as the terrorists seek to destroy the will of the people to resist.

Taliban influence: Districts/agencies where the Taliban are present but their activities are more subtle. The Taliban may run madrassas, or religious schools; conduct recruiting and fundraising; and host camps or Taliban units. Attacks are not as prevalent in these regions as they are in Taliban control or Contested control areas.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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17 Comments

  • Dan A says:

    Bill, do you get any financial benefit for providing all this info to these news organizations? I think you should if you aren’t. You’re saving them a whole bunch of trouble and probably give them better info then they’d probably be able to get in house.

  • Mr T says:

    Is the Taliban control due to their brutal tactics or true support of the population?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Dan, No, but that isn’t the way things work. Since I am not capable of producing the maps at the moment, its better that the info get out. In the end that is what I am concerned with, what is most important.
    Mr T, Insurgency only need a small percentage of the population to support them to succeed. The rest just need to remain silent. I don’t believe there is deep support for the Taliban, rather that they are well versed in intimidation and brutality.

  • Jim says:

    Memory tells me that when the US engaged in the country the Taliban controlled 90% of Afghanistan. They didn’t just evaporate when we invaded; as they said they would do, they backed off and waited to mount an insurgency.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    I read a news article that due to the strict timeline and McChrystal not getting all of the reinforcements he asked for, that the US strategy in Afghanistan next year would be the most aggressive that we’ve seen in an attempt to crush the Taliban militarily. If that is the case, it’s not the best thing we could have hoped for. At the very least, seeing the US military take a more aggressive stance on the Afghan side of the border might persuade the Pakistanis to continue their offensives.
    Obama’s speech last night wasn’t too promising.

  • nissonic says:

    How long is the U.S planning to stay in Afghanistan?
    You know once you are out the Taliban will rule the place…who will contest them for power? They are ruthless and cunning…a most vicious combination I must say

  • Civy says:

    The Taliban will be resisted by the overwhelming majority of the population who don’t want to be dragged back into the 8th century to live under the boot heels of a bunch of nihilistic tyrants whom are every bit as much interested in their private orgy of power as Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, or any other sociopathic power monger.
    I think the USMC better get serious about DO pretty darned fast. If we don’t get really proficient at fighting with light, distributed forces with massive airborne fire support, we will not fare well in a country where the population that must be protected is spread out so evenly all over the landscape.
    The US Army will NOT want to fight light. They will want to fight heavy and slow, and that will be outrageously expensive and result in few major engagements, none of which will be decisive. This has been MacGregor’s criticism of the DOD since Desert Storm.

  • Woodruff says:

    Mr. Roggio
    How do you define as the area is under control? I ask this Sir because Iwas in Konduz last year I would agree with contested but cotrolled not really. There was no part of Konduz I would call controlled by the Taliban.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Woodruff, please call me Bill. You can see an explanation here:
    http://www.longwarjournal.org/multimedia/maps/FullImageWrapperLatestFullImage.php
    I added the information into this entry, thank you for the suggestion.
    The Taliban control in districts in Kunduz hasn’t really developed until the past 8 months or so, as far as I can determine. This has been reported in the Afghan & international media and has been confirmed by my sources. The Afghan Police have conducted operations there and I do expect designations to change in the near future.
    I hope that helps.

  • J says:

    Bill,
    I would take issue with this map, at least with regards to Ghazni province. The major Hazara districts, Nawur, Jaghori and Malistan, which you list as “contested,” are completely safe, functional and Taliban-free; any Taliban who set foot in those areas are killed by the locals, and the Taliban try to avoid traveling in those areas. Whereas Nawa district (the “tail”) which you also list as “contested,” is completely Taliban-controlled, there has been absolutely no Afghan government or security forces presence in over a year. Qarabagh, which you list as “Taliban controlled,” should be “contested;” some of the district officials are present and working in the district center, but the Taliban also have a strong presence and some influence over the people.

  • Alex says:

    “You know once you are out the Taliban will rule the place…who will contest them for power?”
    The central government. I’m serious. Even when the Taliban had control, they were challenged by the Northern Alliance.
    People tend to look at these situations with a sense of permanence, like the Taliban fought indigenous forces hard in the past; therefore, they will always fight hard. There’s really too many variables though, and too many competing spheres of influence, both within and outside of the Taliban–a non-homogeneous entity to itself.

  • Cordell says:

    Bill:
    With respect to the three isolated areas in northern Afghanistan, are the Taliban infiltrating from the south through government controlled areas or are they coming from the north across the borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan? (Wikipedia reports no ongoing Islamist insurgency in Tajikistan, while Uzbekistan’s Islamist movement is largely political.) If the latter case is true, would it not be more accurate to label them as non-Pashtun Islamists allied with the Taliban? In addition, by these areas of control/contention are the Taliban attempting to facilitate their drug trafficking or are they attempting to disrupt NATO supply lines? In short, what is their strategic objective here?

  • ayamo says:

    @Alex:
    Yep, they were. But the NA wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for the invasion of Afghanistan.
    After Taloqan was captured in late 2000, where the Pakistani Frontier Coprs helped the Taliban to win a decisive victory, the NA had been severely weakened.

  • jdloftis says:

    First time posting. I’m in Zabul province right now, have been for five months. I have to say that the map is inaccurate w/r/t Zabul. Zabul is the province NE of Kandahar, and every district in Zabul is at least contested, most are controlled, especially outside mortar range of the bases, and there’s one province that is black, which means there is no Afghan govt presence there, let alone coalition. I hope our national policy makers are making decisions on better information than this map.

  • freedom fighter says:

    Bill,
    The map labels are a little misleading. Having spent my fair share of time in Afghanistan recently, I can say that very few provinces, if any, are completely “taliban controlled.” The categories are probably best labeled: Taliban Presence, Taliban Influence, and Contested. A district or province with parallel administrations has two competing interests, and is therefore should be labeled contested.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    The comments from those of you who have been in Afghanistan are greatly appreciated. I can personally say that the difficulty of doing a map such as this is immense. The reason I haven’t put this out sooner is I have struggled with the information. The range of feedback I receive varies greatly. I have some sources, who have been extremely solid, tell me to pain entire regions red (I’ve resisted this). Others represent the view of ‘freedom fighter’ above. Just creating the definition of designations was difficult.
    I tried to be as conservative as I could on the designations, balancing source information with news reports, maps from the Afghan govt, etc. I believe that the margin of error for most districts is a shade. I can be convinced otherwise.
    For those who have commented above, if you want to provide more information, please email me at: bill.roggio@longwarjournal.org and we can discuss offline. I will be sure to incorporate your input into the next iteration.
    Many thanks.

  • Alex says:

    Recently Barack Obama said he would send to Afghanistan an additional 17 thousand troops. Because the situation there is getting worse … Generally wondering when they can bring order there? What is the logical end for this whole story? Seems to me that the wound on the world map will still bleed …

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis