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Mapped: The Taliban’s Strongholds in Afghanistan

Trump just announced a troop surge. Here’s what he's up against.


On Aug. 21, U.S. President Donald Trump announced after months of internal debate inside the administration that he would send more troops to Afghanistan. The announcement indicated that the war there — the longest the United States has ever fought — will not wind down anytime soon.

The Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s and developed close ties to al Qaeda and its founder, Osama bin Laden. The Taliban gave shelter to bin Laden and al Qaeda in Afghanistan, prompting the United States to invade after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The U.S. military quickly toppled the Taliban regime, but its fighters regrouped and have slowly regained territory there in the past three years since the withdrawal of most international combat troops in 2014.

The map below, compiled from open sources by FDD’s Long War Journal, a news blog, shows regions of Afghanistan that are currently under Taliban control. Gray-shaded regions indicate Taliban control; red areas are contested; and yellow indicates that Taliban claims over the region can’t be confirmed.

In February, Gen. John Nicholson, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, called the war there a “stalemate.” He and other military leaders have called for an increase in troops.

The president also fears the expansion of the Islamic State, whose numbers have grown in Afghanistan. He noted in his Aug. 21 speech that a “hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and al Qaeda.”

Trump has long opposed the Afghan war, tweeting in 2012 that it was a “complete waste.” But he also criticized President Barack Obama for withdrawing from Iraq, which left a power vacuum that the Islamic State quickly filled, establishing a caliphate that extended through large swaths of Iraq and Syria. Military leaders fear that a similar power vacuum in Afghanistan would allow the Islamic State or other militant groups to expand their base.

Since the war in Afghanistan began, 2,350 American soldiers have died in the conflict.

Photo credit: FDD’s Long War Journal

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian is a journalist covering China from Washington. She was previously an assistant editor and contributing reporter at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @BethanyAllenEbr