Map of Taliban control in Pakistan’s northwest

Click the map above for full view

Map Last updated March 3, 2010

With the military on the offensive against the Taliban in South Waziristan, Pakistani officials are hopeful that the Taliban will be decisively defeated if the forces of Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud can be destroyed and the government’s writ can be restored in the Mehsud tribal areas. Government officials have described South Waziristan as the nexus of the Taliban’s operations, with 80 percent of terrorist attacks in Pakistan planned and executed from that tribal agency.

But despite recent operations in the region, the Taliban are still in firm control of several tribal agencies and districts in the northwest, and in the rest of the region the Taliban have a strong presence or at least contest the government for control. Even if Hakeemullah’s forces are defeated or forced to withdraw, the Taliban will still control half of South Waziristan; the military has cut a peace deal with Mullah Nazir, the South Waziristan Taliban leader who has had more senior al Qaeda and Taliban commanders killed in his tribal areas than any other leader.

The Taliban also have a strong presence in several districts in Baluchistan and Punjab provinces [the current map focuses on the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, and touches on several adjoining districts in Punjab and Baluchistan].

In addition to the Taliban, allied Pakistani jihadi groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Janghvi, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Harkat-ul Mujahideen, and a host of other terror groups operate unfettered in much of Punjab, Sindh, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and the Northern Areas, and also maintain bases in the northwest.

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



  • dan says:

    Has anyone been keeping a count on how many former inmates at GITMO returned to AQ after their release?
    I would think that would be an important fact that the public should know about.

  • Civy says:

    I’ve had this crazy idea for years now to lease the Tribal Areas from the Paki government like the Brits leased Hong Kong from the Chinese. A 100 yr lease should do it. This would give us carte blanc to go in heavy and take out the core of terrorism around the world.
    Next year, after we kill off the Islami-Nazis, whose core ambition is to rule, no matter how much they have to twist their religion to get into power, we can plant coffee and set up Eco-tourism for the rich and the bored to paw over.
    We might even build a dam or two as this region is 2nd only to Switzerland in it’s hydro-electric resources. I’m sure India and China would buy all we could wire them if the Pakis didn’t want it.

  • Zeissa says:

    I think your idea is insane. They’d still be conservative Wahhabi muslims who tend to support militancy, prosperity won’t change that.

  • Gulraiz Khan says:

    Being from Swabi district (village Marghuz), and with friends and relations in neighbouring districts, I was quite interested to see your map of ‘Taliban Control’. What is your definition of ‘taliban control, taliban influence, taliban presence’? What data supports your map?
    Unfortunately, most of the comments I read are short on insight and high on bravado or downright bias. There is very little, if any, contribution from those in the thick of it. There is no dearth of ‘experts and analysts’ that parade regularly on CNN and other news network. The theme is familiar, imminent collapse of Pakistani State, followed by ‘ what about the nukes’? Without downplaying the magnitude of the threat from Taliban and Al-Qaeda, Pakistan has the sixth largest army in the world, the ‘miscreants’ do not have the capability to fight a conventional war but can make our (ordinary Joe’s) life a misery for a long time.
    Look forward to your comments on ‘the map’, which continues to appear in the Western media from time to time.

  • Civy says:

    It wasn’t prosperity I had in mind to change their minds. It was annihilation. The reason we didn’t have an insurgency problem in Germany or Japan after WW-II is because any who wanted to fight and die for their country had already been serviced. Those that remained had other goals for their lives besides ceaseless fighting. A basic rule in counter-insurgency is about 1:10 actually wants to fight. The rest are forced to commit a crime under duress, and then blackmailed and intimidated into continued cooperation.

  • Spooky says:

    I disagree with you on the particulars, but the overall idea of removing FATA from Pakistan and placing it under NATO/Afghan control is valid I think.
    If we want to win the hearts and minds of Pashtuns, why not fufill one of their greatest desires and reunite their lands under a greater Afghanistan? Especially if Pakistan collapses beforehand. The Durrand Line is one of the most artificial borders in all Asia and was a mistake to continue to realize once British India was dissolved.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Gulraiz Khan,
    Look below the map, there is text that explains the designations. But I will paste the definitions here:
    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.
    Swabi is listed as ‘Taliban influence’ – which means there is a presence. This is documented in the Pakistani media. I also have discussions with Pakistanis and others who I consider to be knowledgeable on the situation in the NWFP. You are free to disagree, of course. I am interested in your opinion.

  • Spooky says:

    Guys, the militants just assassinated a brigadier. Apprantly he was the deputy director of military operations…
    And all Rehman Malik can do is blame India for 80% of all terror attacks in Pakistan. The civillian government has enough problems without getting into more tussles with India.

  • Aamer says:

    Dear Bill
    Like Gulraiz, I also hail from the area (Peshawar actually) and although tense, the situation is nowhere near that shown in your map. The map is accurate to the extent of Waziristan, Aurakzai and few pockets of Kurram. Swat, Malakand, Buner, Bajaur and Mohmand are now almost taliban free and at most you can paint them yellow in your scheme. Peshawar and Kohat has a bustling life only if seen on the streets of these cities and not through the eyes of a war correspondent. The Pakistani taliban outside of waziristan are a spent force now and may only be able to live like IRA for a few more years.

  • T Ruth says:


  • Bill Roggio says:

    Gulraiz Khan & Aamer,
    There is certainly room for disagreement on these designations and I appreciate your input.
    Thank you again for the feedback. I want to be clear about this, and I think this is something that isn’t properly communicated in the map and text. I put a lot of effort in trying to get this right (while keeping it brief and readable) but clearly have not succeeded.
    In many ways, given the way that I’ve mapped out the designations, Influence (Yellow) is worse than the Contested (Orange). In the Influence areas the Taliban often operate under the radar, in a way like the mafia operate here (yes it is an imperfect analogy) and are often left alone to operate. These areas provide the Taliban with a lot of critical support. In the contested areas, the violence is higher but the Taliban are being pursued.
    I disagree that the Taliban is limited to Waziristan, Arakzai, and pockets in Kurram, and many people I speak with, including Pakistanis from the region, agree. Just today the military launched air and artillery strikes in Mohmand (15 Taliban killed, many wounded – ). There is an operation to clear the Taliban in Mamond in Bajaur as we comment. There are areas still under control of the Taliban. The Pakistani press reported one such area in Shangla a month ago. I could go on here.
    All that being said, I wish you & yours. the best of luck. I am often accused of being anti-Pakistanis for pointing these issues out. Nothing would make me happier to see you crush the Taliban and the array of terror groups operating in your country.

  • yash says:

    Dear Gulraiz,
    In the long term, Pakistan as a state is doomed irrespective of the outcome of the Waziristan operations. Pak Army still strongly believes in the use of terrorists to wreck havoc in the neighbouring countries like India, Afghanistan and Iran. The Pak Army will only act against those groups which are inimical to the Pak but will safegaurd those groups which kill westerners and Indians. The outcome of these shortsighted policies over a period 30-40 years will be radicalization of a big percentage of Pak youth and inevitable fall of Pakistan.

  • Civy says:

    I will research The Durrand Line so I can engage the discussion more fully. By whatever mechanism, we agree that for some time to come, it would be in the best interest if the peaceful people of FATA, Pakistan, NATO and Afghanistan if the Taliban, especially those intent on exporting terrorism and attacking sovereign nations, were annihilated. They are beyond modification or redemption. They must be destroyed.
    I believe the terrorists there now have been driven from every other part of the world in defeat, and are making a last stand there. So be it. Doomsday for them cannot come soon enough for a world that has more pressing problems to solve. (global warming, famine, disease, unemployment, etc)
    I would also like to see part or all of Baluchistan become part of Afghanistan, or at least have Afghanistan granted some long-term lease on some strip of land leading to Pasni or the port of Gwadar. Afghanistan’s prospects for prosperity will never be good so long as it is land-locked. It is also presently a logistical problem for NATO and the US in their war. I don’t know how the Baluchis would feel about this, but they are very unhappy as part of Pakistan.
    I have spent many years studying the area and the opportunities for investments are staggering. In a land with so many resources ANY investments would provide huge rewards for investor and country alike. The only thing missing is law, order and stability. The potential in pipelines from the Caucuses and Iranian oil and gas fields alone would provide huge income and employment streams for decades to come.
    I wish we would do a better job of articulating a bright and hopeful future that would motivate those looking forward, and paint that in stark contrast to those who want to drag the world back into the 8th century, and most especially, under their boot heels.
    This is not a struggle about religion or ideology anymore, it is a struggle by those who want to indulge their own egos at the expense of anyone who gets in their way. They are perfectly happy to kill ANYONE to grab power.
    PS: To my point, this just in …

  • Mr. Wolfe says:

    To all:
    Is this war as simple as a media campaign?
    Would posters, billboards, and magazine/newspaper projects pointing out the dead (as dead, not a martyr) as ones who did not believe in the future. Those who oppose education for children/women would be against their neighbors. Because with intelligence comes better living conditions.
    Instead of putting up campaign posters with peoples’ faces, put up information on the good deeds the government wants to put in place, and point out the ones who demand that NOTHING changes.
    Progress, does not need to upset Islam, even strict Islam, but it does need children and teens to believe that there is a future for them. Stop with promises, and start with reality.
    The only way to fight an insurgency, is with a scalpel.

  • Scott says:

    This map is very informative and I’m sure involves a lot of work to maintain. That said, I want more! Can the map be expanded to include all of Afghanistan and Pakistan?
    Also, like Dan I’m curious about released GITMO prisoner recidivism. I’d love to see a log or link to a log on here that tracks that.

  • P says:

    1) To Civy’s post at October 21: Pakistan would never lease anything,under any circumstance for many factors.(Just 3 are: Loosing influence over Afghanistan,leaving it exposed to India,Taliban’s wouldn’t stay there.3There is no interest of the US gov. to lease areas to wipe out extremist islamic groups.We are not there to occupy lands.)
    2) To Gulraiz Khan at October 21:Partially true.Most of the news analytics are made from inside green zones,from in-accurate data.When you hear about nukes and gov. collapses those are only excuses made,so we can provide more money.Bottom line.
    3)To the fellow with the media outreach..()
    Look it only works so much..We,U.S. are trying to pinpoint our spear at only those who are a real threat.A big mouth is predictably and does nothing,and we have plenty here at home.To the quiet ones we listen carefully,and they fear us.Bottom line: It’s all about money when it comes to media.

  • AZhar Mehmood says:

    This map does not reflect true picture because being native Pakistani. Couple of areas do have problems but the way this is highlighted in this picture is just exaggeration of the situation. Areas like SWAT, Hariput, Abottabad , Noshera, Kohat do face bombblasts but it does not mean that they have Contested Control or Taliban Influence.

  • Alex says:

    Had a bit of a laugh when I read civy’s comment about taking over the tribal areas and colonizing the resources.
    Also didn’t realize the potential for hydro-electricity was so massive there. Does that mean we are going to start hearing that we got into this war for water?


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