Taliban controls or contests scores of districts in Afghanistan

Map detailing Taliban controlled or contested districts. Click colored district for information. Based on an analysis by The Long War Journal, 29 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts are under Taliban control, and another 36 districts are contested. Map created by Caleb Weiss, Bill Roggio, and Patrick Megahan.

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.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal. Caleb Weiss is a research analyst at FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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  • Bake says:

    Good job! Now waiting for the same map for DAESH activity!

  • azaz says:

    The US put a lot of “efforts” in recruiting warlords, gangs and criminals in order to save the appearances. No wonder the gangrening corruption.

  • Naveeran says:

    You must be kidding? They own most of the districts in Southern and Eastern Afghanistan. All the investment in the Karzai and Ghani governments has been for nothing. Afghan forces are a joke. They weree run out of Kunduz like dogs. This is what happens when the self-licking ice cream cone of military eltie convince themselves and the country that we are winning!

  • Bill Baar says:

    This is starting to remind me of the end in Vietnam.

  • Arjuna says:

    Great reporting. Wow.

    Obama is managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory twice (Iraq and now, Afghanistan) as he and his rainbow R2P warriors attack Putin and Xi with a fusillade of terrifying…. words.

    War is hell. The democrats, by trying to fight surgically and slowly, are making the problems much worse. Our own allies called in the hospital strike. Why? Because we never defeated the Taliban and left a national govt and army unable to defend its sovereignty. Thanks, Pakistan. You’ll get yours in the end.

  • mike merlo says:

    Great map, excellent info. Thanks. The opportunity to confront this threat early on was not acted upon & is now haunting all those responsible. This is a borderline do or die moment for the Afghan Taliban. Pakistan has just said in so many words that if the Afghan Taliban fail to come to terms set out by the Pakistani’s they will have to come to some sort of understanding with ISIS/ISIL. This means what many have suspected all along Zawajiri’s fate, hence AQ in the AfPak Theater, is at the mercy & ‘good graces’ of Pakistan & it’s ISI

  • Chest Rockwell says:

    Ismail Khan is keeping his territory on lock it seems.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Thanks for the maps! I’d say the maps are conservative with regards to Taliban “control”. Afghanistan will be a mess for another generation. Nation building is not easy. I was surprised to the timing of the Kunduz offensive. It may have been designed to raid the prison, but turned into a rout unexpectedly. My guess is that the Taliban/Haqanni’s/Hekmatyar are bidding their time, until the Western Forces are down to next to nothing and can only react in a limited way. I’ve seen reports that Obama wants the US footprint down to about 1,500, primarily for protecting the embassy in Kabul. That will not be enough to react in the distant provinces, and quite frankly will make our (US) contingent very vulnerable, especially to the new phenomenon of BMP VBIED’s. Obama has gone against I’d say almost all of the advice coming from the military/intelligence community. He just wants to check the box that he ended two wars on his watch. I’m not saying he is right or wrong. History will judge those choices.

  • mike merlo says:

    “Obama is managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” depressingly true. No matter, the Afghans will manage to ‘right’ this set back. Obama’s tepidness has been exposed for the weakness that it is & the other players with a stake in this affray will lend him enough cover to save face & move in a direction that will afford Afghanistan the ‘breathing’ space that it needs

  • paul says:

    we are fighting Pakistan in afghanistan

  • Amanullah says:

    Afghanistan has 34 provinces and 365 district. I think the districts number is included mistakenly.

  • Fred says:

    Wow guys, fantastic map. Bookmarked.

  • Arjuna says:

    Corruption is key to America’s losses in both Afghanistan and Iraq. In the former we never seriously touched the poppy crop and left the hinterland and critical South and East to enemy infiltration. The latter is now being voluntarily occupied by Hezbollah, Iran and Russia (!?) to fight Islamists.
    Wow, strategic defeat is happening fast!
    Wait there are Chinese and Russians conducting joint combat ops we declined to join? Can someone please tell me this is just a bad dream?

  • Arjuna says:

    we can’t leave all these theaters hot and full of hotheads and we can’t stay there forever and force them to cool down.
    aargh. it’s a no-win.

  • Edoardo Maldarelli says:

    Excellent work !Immediately the maps give the perception of the difficulty in operating in Mountainous Terrains so high and poor of everything .Only Alexander the Great and his fellows soldiers fougth and won there and ,evidently, traces of this martial legacy are still operating there ,I mean ,in my opinion,also in some lines of blood of the Talibans .For other reasons(being us in 2015 d.C.) some of the issues on the table can remember aspects ,already seen, of the Vietnam ‘s War with his harsh teachings,for us, in having a tactical superiority ,like Vietcong had had , acting as fishes in their own waters . In conclusion ,after so many years of this war ,we need new guide-lines of understanding ,based on more appropriate levels of awareness of the simple complexity of our ,common ,world .Best regards all.

  • eaere says:

    Your guys map does not make sense. I do not see 398 districts being control by the Taliban. Nor does Afghanistan have that many. Plus, may of these districts that fall to Taliban control on your guys map has been retaken by the Afghan National Forces. If I remember a more accurate report was by New York Times a few weeks back states that the Taliban controls about 36 districts and 9 are heavily contested.

  • Me says:

    Notice the horizontal bisection of the territory. Now consider what this does to potential supply lines. I believe you will see where the support for this gain has come from.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ Arjuna

    Eurasia’s Big 3(Russia, Communist China, India) along with Jr Partner Iran picking up where the USA might leave off in Afghanistan if it does.

    The Syrian Iraqi Theater most definitely has the same players involved with different levels of commitment, as opposed to their Afghan commitments, along with some extra players making this ‘scrum’ much more interesting & entertaining

  • paul d says:

    we need to stop sending aid to Pakistan as some of that money is used to fund/train the Taliban.

  • irebukeu says:

    Corruption is the key to Afghanistan’s existence and government. The nation of Afghanistan has never existed without someone else paying its bills. America is just the latest sucker to flip out its checkbook as its head accountant. Its pretty sad all-around

  • irebukeu says:

    Afghanistan is a rentier state with an extraction export economy (when they had one). Always has been and always will be. Dump it back to the Russians and Iranians. During the late stages of the Soviet occupation period the Iranians made deals with the Soviets and flew supplies into the central highlands for the Hazara people all the while fighting the Soviets through Afghan proxies.
    American contractors provide legal donations to American politicians then quite by coincidence land huge contracts. Contractors have been known to pay Afghan government officials, local officials, hire locals, bring in non locals for hire then in some known cases contractors pay insurgent groups NOT to attack them while they reap huge profits for themselves.
    Everyone gets a check, everyone foes to the bank
    “”Bacha bazi anyone? Don’t worry the Americans are protecting our little nest of horrors””
    Buildings go unused after being built, Generators and solar panels stolen and sold in the market. The list just goes on and on
    Someone always pays the bills for the Afghans, no matter what side of the two headed coin they happen to be on at that time. Someone else always pays the bills.

  • jean says:

    Not surprised by the Kunar areas, but the major town in Marwara is probably still under ANSF control, the bridges give access and also Gagi pass has been officially reopened. The Dangam area was always problematic even at the height of the surge. It surprising to see that Dari Peche, korengal and Chapa Hara are not listed

  • Arjuna says:

    Your comment does not makes sense, sir. I suggest you re-read the article you misquote.

  • azaz says:

    the US took advantage of the Russian defeat in Afghanistan, The Russians are now taking advantage of the American defeats in Afghanistan and middle east.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ azaz

    a rather prosaic view of an ‘environment’ that reflects major players taking turns as opposed to any one entity being defeated. One could just as easily make argument of this just ‘taking one for the team.’

  • ajay says:

    One needs to de-nuclearise Pakistan and impose sanctions on them, to rein them in ; since Taliban is but a proxy for the Pak Army/ ISI

  • azaz says:

    @mike merlo, clever people are actually those able to quickly identify simple facts and act accordingly while others dive into fantasy.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ azaz

    & yet over the course of the last few hundred years the same Nations pretty much just keep taking turns runnin whatever it is they’ve determined is of value

    so JFK setting his & his Nations ‘sights’ on the Moon is that “clever” or “fantasy?”

    so bin Laden setting his yet to be realized Caliphate ‘sights’ on the Hijacking of a Nations Domestic Airliners & crashing them into an iconic symbol is that “clever” or just a “fantasy?”

  • akkas says:

    dear! against Russia CIA sent truck full on dollars…bcoz that was in US interest. Flash back!! its US’ leftover ‘the Talibans’ which are haunting Pakistan and Afghanistan now…

  • Bilal khan says:

    After sep11 pak never wanted to be in a direct conflict with super powers so they were engaged in a proxy war.ISI has learned alot in 14years of intelligence war and has proved that its far better in fighting proxy wars too..


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