Taliban controls or contests 70 districts in Afghanistan


The Taliban now controls 35 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts and contests another 35, according to information compiled by The Long War Journal. The data was used by The New York Times to create a map that depicts the Taliban’s reach in Afghanistan. The map is reproduced above. The Long War Journal‘s original map, as well as our methodology for labeling a district controlled or contested, can be viewed here.

We believe that the Taliban either controls or contests far more districts than are listed in the maps. From The New York Times report accompanying the map:

The Taliban have a significant footprint in Afghanistan, according to Bill Roggio, the editor of The Long War Journal, an online publication that is tracking Taliban control. Mr. Roggio has confirmed that about one-fifth of the country is controlled or contested by the Taliban, but based on his understanding of how the Taliban operate, he said, “they probably either control or heavily influence about a half of the country.”

Our data understates the Taliban’s influence in areas of Afghanistan, particularly in the east and south, as we are using open source reports to determine a district’s status. [See LWJ report, Taliban controls or contests scores of districts in Afghanistan, for more details.]

As the Taliban regains areas lost during the US-led surge from 2009-2012, the US is planning to further reduce its presence, just not as quickly as previously anticipated. The US currently has less than 10,000 troops in the country, after already abandoning a counterinsurgency strategy that required far more soldiers. President Obama planned to withdraw all US troops, with the exception of a force to protect the Kabul embassy, by 2017. Yesterday, with the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating, Obama reversed course and said that 5,500 troops would remain in country at the end of his term in office. Those troops would be based in four locations: Kabul, Bagram, Nangarhar, and Kandahar.

We argue that this force is insufficient to halt the Taliban’s advance. The Taliban seized the provincial capital of Kunduz for two weeks and dozens of districts this year, despite the presence of 9,800 US troops in country.

The Taliban also makes the case that a force of 5,500 soldiers is not enough.

“If the invaders lost the war in Afghanistan with the presence of hundreds of thousands of troops, their hopes of reversing the tide with five thousand troops are also misguided,” the Taliban said in an official statement that was released on Voice of Jihad.

We are loath to admit that the Taliban has a point.

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  • m3fd2002 says:

    Guys, Better get your red markers out. It’s all over except the “shouting and body count”. The facts on the ground will be difficult to reverse, with any new administration. Afghanistan’s population (probably, the entire developing world’s population) has increased by 50% since 9-11-2001, which translates into unlimited cannon fodder in low intensity conflicts. Expeditionary forces have limited impact in this new era.

  • Tony says:

    Finally, Wikipedia has a new (and very incomplete, of course) map of who controls what in Afghanistan. It needs to be severely updated, though.


    The thing is, is that it’s hard to make an accurate map of who controls what in Afghanistan, because Afghanistan does not get the attention that Syria or Iraq does. The Taliban only release periodical media compilations, and the way Afghanistan is structured with it’s districts make it hard to deduce who actually controls what at any given time.

  • Dennis says:

    Obviously our president (?) Is deploying piecemeal forces to cover his butt till 1-17, where upon he is not responsible, in his mind anyway. Meanwhile these ten thousand or less troops will be hounded by a taliban/Islamist enemy who has been allowed to openly run a thirty square mile training camp. Only after a year of seeing what metastasized in Iraq after not sticking around, instead, allowing Iran’s quds force to take over the daily missions of the Iraqi military, our chief decides it might be prudent to leave an obligatory force so he won’t look more stoopid (double o stupid) than he did in Iraq. Now Russia is laughing at him as he says their acting out of” weakness” ?? They sure look weak as they pound the crap out of all those
    “Moderates” we’ve been supplying.

  • manus says:

    Yet, a lot of us DO NOT want to spend any more treasure and blood in these forlorn places, period. So, let the Iranians and Russians spend their blood and treasure there. That said, we need to hang in there with the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, a competent and secular people who have always done a lot of our bidding and dirty work, and, especially now. They have no real friends there, whether it be Turkey, Iraq, Iran, or Syria.

  • Jim says:

    @Dennis, what policy do you advocate instead? Eternal occupation?

    It’s important to know when to accept defeat.

  • azaz says:

    The Taliban are the official power in Afghanistan.They are fighting back criminals.

  • Arjuna says:

    We simply cannot, must not, and should not ever surrender to these animals. Or sit at a table across from them. Or look the other way. The Taliban are a scourge on humanity, just as bad as any terrorists out there. Per Amnesty, their “hit list” includes “activists, journalists and civil servants based in Kunduz…
    When the Taliban took control of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and other government and NGO offices in Kunduz on Monday, they gained access to reams of information about NGO staff, government employees and members of the security forces – including addresses, phone numbers and photos.”
    They are killing our friends. Obama get your gun.

  • Green says:

    It takes political wisdom and courage to know when we have lost. You can not do the same thing over and over and expect a different result

  • Green says:

    We also have to look at the consequences of our wars. Both the Iraq and Afghan wars helped Iran, a nation that develops long range missiles, and terms US its enemy despite all the extended hands from desperate US diplomats.

    We need a holistic review of our foreign policy, and become more like China rather then compete with a bankrupt Russia.

    Let Russia destroy itself in the Middle East. Now is the time to walk away while Russia plays Russian roulet with itself. Let our enemies fight each other

  • Tom says:

    In Vietnam in the 1960s there was a saying that the government controlled most of the country by day and the VC and NVA controlled it by night. Targeted assassinations of government officials was the norm then, and still is the norm. I’m not sure any number of foreign troops can stop an insurgency that knows the terrain and has lived in it for decades. Strategically, no nation (USSR, US, etc) has the ability to station troops in Afghanistan, or any other nation, for decades — encouraging them to ‘go native’. Troops demand to be ‘rotated’ back home to family. There’s also not the will among those ‘back home’ to fight to the death and pay any price. Breaking the will of the Taliban fighters is a tough nut to crack. I don’t see that Kabul has the single-minded determination to win this war. I hope I am wrong, but this reminds me a lot of the collapse of the Saigon government ‘back then.

  • Harris says:

    Oh this Map… As if there is nothing happening in Jalalabad…

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Harris, we couldn’t be more clear that we are using open source info for map, and that we believe this map underestimates what is happening, particularly in south and east.

  • Arjuna says:

    Disagree. We broke it, we own it… morally and under public international law. We should stop doing Saudi and Israeli bidding and join hands with the Russians and kill Islamists.

  • Green says:

    It serves our geopoloitical interests to let Russia and Iran bury themselves in a quagmire.

    Not to help them. As I said, we should let our enemies bleed each other if they want to.

    We don’t have 14 billion a year

  • yy says:

    Anwar al-Awlaki once quoted d Quran & said that Muslims are going to win. I think d earlier all forces submit d beta so money &lives are saved. 4me I will start learning more about Islam. I don’t want to b on d loosing side

  • Dennis says:

    Jim, while I don’t condone open ended commitments, I do hope that when we fight wars we do it to” win” .Don’t tie the hands of our fighters by saying we will take the “moral high road” .what war is being fought like that, ?No one other than us, even our” friends” laugh at that.Wars MUST be fought without politicians telling our enemies how we won’t do this or that.My policy? The Powell doctrine. Simple, go in blow it up kill all combatants then make” peace” .


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