For nearly two decades the government of Afghanistan, with the help of U.S. and coalition forces, has been battling for control of the country against the ever-present threat of the Afghan Taliban. FDD’s 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. Districts have been retaken (by both sides) only to be lost shortly thereafter, largely resulting in the conflict’s current relative stalemate. However, since the U.S. drawdown of peak forces in 2011, the Taliban has unquestionably been resurgent.
The primary data and research behind this are based on open-source information, such as press reports and information provided by government agencies and the Taliban. This is a living map that LWJ frequently updates as verifiable research is conducted to support control changes. Any “Unconfirmed” district colored orange has some level of claim-of-control made by the Taliban, but either has not yet been—or can not be— independently verified by LWJ research. A “Contested” district may mean 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. A “Controlled” district may mean the Taliban is openly administering a district, providing services and security, and also running the local courts.
Beginning in Jan. 2018, LWJ incorporated district-level data provided by the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which is based on assessments by Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan.
Resolute Support/SIGAR has five assessment levels: insurgent controlled, insurgent influenced, contested, government influenced, and government controlled. LWJ does not maintain an “influenced” assessment for the districts, and simply has three assessment levels: insurgent controlled, contested, and government controlled.
LWJ considers the influenced assessment to equate to contested. The reasoning is that if the Taliban wield influence in, say 30% or 70% of a district, the end result is the same. Neither the government, nor the Taliban, fully control the district, and it is therefor contested.
LWJ uses the following methodology to reconcile SIGAR/Resolute Support’s information with LWJ’s data:
– If RS/SIGAR assessment of a district matches LWJ’s assessment, there are no changes.
– If RS/SIGAR identifies a district as Insurgent Controlled and LWJ identifies as contested, then LWJ assesses the district as Insurgent Controlled (based on review of available information).
– If RS/SIGAR identifies a district as Insurgent Influenced and LWJ determines it to be Contested, LWJ assesses the district as Contested.
– If RS/SIGAR identifies a district as Contested and LWJ has no determination, LWJ accepts RS/SIGAR’s assessment and identifies the district Contested.
-If RS/SIGAR identifies a district as GIRoA Influenced, and LWJ has information there is significant Taliban activity in the district (frequent attacks on police and military, attacks on the district center or military bases, closing schools, etc.), then LWJ assesses the district as Contested.
– If RS/SIGAR identified a district as GIRoA Influenced, and LWJ cannot see evidence of Taliban activity, LWJ assesses the district as GIRoA Controlled.