Afghanistan Map Shows Taliban Now Control More Than Half the Country

The Taliban's rapid advance across Afghanistan has left ever shrinking islands of government control dotted around the center and east of the country, plus the capital Kabul.

Few observers expect government forces to be able to win back the areas seized by the Taliban, or even necessarily hold Kabul. Taliban fighters have captured 10 provincial capitals in just one week, with Ghazni City the most recent to have been taken. Herat, the country's third largest city, has also fallen.

According to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Long War Journal real-time map of control, the Taliban now control 242 of Afghanistan's 407 districts—almost 60 percent—with another 100 considered contested. Just 65 remain under government control, the Long War Journal map says.

The Taliban controlled some 20 percent of districts at the end of April, just after President Joe Biden ordered the withdrawal of America's 3,000 troops by September 11. Since then, many of the contested areas have been secured by Taliban fighters, including several key border crossings, as shown by the Statista infographic below.

Map Shows Taliban Advancement in Afghanistan
This graphic shows the advancement of the Taliban of Afghanistan with data from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies' Long War Journal. Statista

FDD Senior Fellow Bill Roggio, editor of FDD's Long War Journal, wrote in May that the war in Afghanistan would likely end in a "quick collapse."

He explained: "The security situation deteriorates rapidly in the wake of a swift Taliban offensive, causing the collapse of the civilian Afghan government and/or military. The Taliban takes control of the south, east and west in short order, and presses its offensive to seize Kabul and the north."

The nationwide Taliban offensive comes just before U.S. and NATO forces leave Afghanistan at the end of August. U.S. forces have been conducting some airstrikes in support of their government allies, but for the most part the Afghan National Army (ANA) has had to face the Taliban alone.

The ANA has long failed to live up to the hopes and promises of its American and international backers. Despite billions of dollars in financial support and a large arsenal of advanced weapons and vehicles, the ANA has been routinely bested by the Taliban, whose fighters have been sharpened by two decades of insurgency against America and its allies.

Publicly, Biden and his top officials have repeatedly expressed confidence in the ANA and the government in Kabul, currently led by President Ashraf Ghani. But privately, reports hint at a much darker mood inside the White House and Pentagon.

The Washington Post reported this week that the Biden administration is preparing for Kabul to fall within 90 days of the U.S. withdrawal on August 31.

Reports on Thursday also claimed that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had asked Ghani to resign, reports later dismissed by the State Department.

Ghani's peace negotiators in Doha, Qatar have reportedly offered the Taliban a peace sharing deal in a bid to stop the fighting. A spokesperson for the Taliban said the group remains committed to peace talks and does not want the government in Kabul to collapse, but its fighters are continuing their advance across the country.

A steady stream of videos of the Taliban's advance is further undermining the beleaguered government. There are clips allegedly showing fighters storming police stations, taking control of the governor's office in Ghanzi, and setting up checkpoints in their newly captured territory.

There are also videos of ANA forces allegedly retreating en masse, driving through city streets in U.S.-provided HMMWVs and transport trucks, though they are difficult to verify.

Observers have noted that the scenes are reminiscent of the Iraqi retreat in the face of advancing Islamic State fighters in 2014, or even the fall of Saigon—now Ho Chi Minh City—in 1975.

This article has been updated to include an infographic.

Taliban fighters in Herat amid Afghanistan advance
In this picture taken on August 13, 2021, Taliban fighters are pictured in a vehicle along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan's third biggest city, after government forces pulled out the day before following weeks of being under siege. -/AFP via Getty Images