While fighting for control of the provincial capital of Kunduz, the Taliban launched a wider offensive in the Afghan north aimed at seizing control of districts in four provinces: Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz, and Takhar. Since Sept. 28, the Taliban has taken control of nine districts in these four provinces and another in the western province of Farah.
The Long War Journal has been tracking the Taliban’s attempts to gain control of territory since NATO ended its military mission in Afghanistan and switched to an “advise and assist” role in June 2014. The map, above, is an attempt to document the Taliban’s advances since the summer of 2014. The districts displayed (red for Taliban contested, black for Taliban control) include only those where The Long War Journal was able to determine a Taliban presence based on open source information, which includes press reports and the Taliban’s claims of control. While the Taliban does exaggerate in its propaganda, its territorial claims have proven to be mostly accurate in the past.
“Contested” means that the government may be in control of the district center, but little else, and the Taliban controls large areas or all of the areas outside of the district center.
“Control” means the Taliban is openly administering a district, providing services and security, and also running the local courts. Often, the district centers are under Taliban occupation or have been destroyed entirely. The Taliban does not always hold the districts it takes. It occasionally will seize a district or the district center, occupy it and fly the flag, leave after a few days, then return at a later date. These districts are considered contested at best.
The map will be updated as new information arises.
While the map shows the districts known to be contested or controlled by the Taliban, it is reasonable to assume that the insurgents have a significant footprint in many more districts, particularly in northern and eastern Afghanistan. For instance, it is likely that additional districts in Kunar, Nuristan, Paktia, Paktika, Khost, Logar, Wardak, Zabul, Ghazni, Nimruz and Kandahar are Taliban administered or contested. But without a claim of control or news reporting to substantiate the Taliban’s presence, these districts are not included on the map.
Using this methodology, 29 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts are under Taliban control, and another 36 districts are contested. 335 districts are either under government control, or their status cannot be determined.
The Afghan government and the US military have not been transparent concerning the status of the country’s districts. In June 2015, the government claimed that only 4 of the 398 districts in Afghanistan’s 34 provinces were administered by the Taliban. The US military does not comment on the status of Afghanistan’s districts, even when conducting military operations there, and refers all inquiries to the Afghan government.