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Govt, Taliban make exaggerated claims of territory they control

Govt, Taliban make exaggerated claims of territory they control

author avatar
12 Feb 2021 - 11:32
Govt, Taliban make exaggerated claims of territory they control
author avatar
12 Feb 2021 - 11:32

KABUL (Pajhwok): Afghan government and the Taliban have made exaggerated claims regarding the territory they are controlling, but according to a Pajhwok Afghan News survey the Taliban control 52 percent territory while 59 percent population of Afghanistan lives in areas controlled by the government.

  • The Taliban control 52 percent of Afghanistan’s territory — at the time of the survey.
  • The government has control on 46 percent territory, where 59 percent of population of the country have been living
  • Nearly three percent is controlled by no side


The Taliban Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid says that BBC reported two years ago that the Taliban control and has influence on 70 percent Afghanistan territory and currently this percentage surged to 75 percent.

But Interior Ministry Spokesperson Tariq Aryan without giving details said that the Taliban has no permanent presence in any part of the country.

There are some other reports saying that 70 percent Afghanistan territory was under the Taliban control but it did not provide detail of the world ‘control’.

Pajhwok has conducted survey on government and the Taliban control areas in Afghanistan when peace talks are underway in Doha and different claims were being made on the areas controlled by conflicting parties.

The survey is conducted at a time when during winter fighting and the Taliban movement decreases comparing to other seasons of the year.

According to the survey, government provides health, educational services and carry out development projects in the areas under the Taliban control, while the Taliban ensured the security of their areas and provide judicial services. Sometimes the Taliban provide judicial services in government controlled areas as well.

Methodology of Pajhwok’s Survey:

According to the National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA) Afghanistan has 422 administrative units — the provincial capitals and districts. The Ministry of Urban Affairs and Land says Afghanistan has around 653,000 square kilometers area and 32.8 million population, including 1.5 million Kochi people. Of the 422 administrative units, 24 districts are temporary.

Pajhwok conducted telephonic interviews or distributed a questionnaire from November 17/2020 till February 3/2020. Individuals for were selected for interview at random from ordinary residents across the country. A total of 1,266 people were interviewed in the survey.

The interviewees were asked as following about the presence of control of government or the Taliban at every administrative unit of the country.

1-            Is the administrative unit under the Taliban control or the government

2-            What percentage of the administrative unit territory is under the government control

3-            What percentage of the administrative unit territory is under the Taliban control

4-            What percentage of the administrative unit territory is controlled by neither side

Pajhwok accept that information provided by some interviewers may be incorrect. To reduce the effect of any such information, Pajhwok is using an average percentage of figures provided by interviewers of every administrative unit.

The survey is a complex assignment. If readers have authentic information that could challenge information in the survey they could send this information to us on e-mail ([email protected])in order to analyze them and bring improvement in the report.

The capitals of all 34 provinces are controlled by the government and of 388 districts, the government has full control on 64 districts while the Taliban have control on 27 districts and the remaining districts are contested between the two sides.

The centres of 39 districts in 17 provinces are in Taliban control while individuals serving on different government posts of these districts have been operating from provincial capitals or other areas.

However, security forces have presence in some areas of 12 districts of these 39 districts.

The entire district and its centres under Taliban control are: Khaki-e-Safid, QalaKah, Bakwa in Farah province, Murghab in Ghor, Gulbad and GulTepa in Kunduz province, Raig in Kandahar province, Naka in Paktika province, Zerkoh, Pushtkoh and KohZwoar in Herat, Yamgan in Badakhshsan province, Mandol in Nuristan province, Daimerdad in MaidanWardak province, Daichopan, Nawbahar and Khak Afghan in Zabul, Nawzad, Musa Kala, Khansheen, Baghran and Dishu in Helmand province, Gero, Ajristan and Nawa in Ghazni province, Zarab in Jawzjan and Ghormach in Badghis province.

The district centre of Gulistan district in Farah, Dihrawod in Uruzgan, Aqtash in Kunduz, Maroof and Ghorak in Kandahar, Kohistanat in Sar-i-Pul, Giyan in Paktika, Zankhan, Rashidan and Waeez in Ghazni, and Qalandar district in Khost province are in the Taliban control and the government employees for these districts are working in provincial capitals or have shifted to other safe areas.

In Ghorak district, the government controls 24 percent territory, while in 12 other districts, the government has at least 10 percent control.

Of the remaining 312 districts, the Taliban hold sway in 90 to 99 percent in 48 districts, 80 to 88 percent in 26 districts, 70 to 78 percent in 22 districts, 60 to 68 percent in 22 districts, 50 to 57 percent in 24 districts, 40 to 47 percent in 14 districts, 30 to 39 percent in 30 districts, 20 to 29 percent in 44 districts, 10 to 18 percent in 40 districts and one to eight percent in 43 districts. The remaining 64 districts are completely controlled by the government.

Referring to Daesh militant group, a new UN 12threport said that although the group had been weakened, it was still active in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces and has taken responsibility for attacks in the capital Kabul and some provinces. The group, however, faced challenges to bring some part of the territory under its belt.


The National Statistic and Information Authority (NSIA) has divided Afghanistan into eight zones.

Pajhwok Survey shows that the government has control on 83 percent areas in the central zone, over 65 percent in eastern zone, more than 52 percent in the northeastern zone, over 52 percent in southeastern zone, nearly 40 percent in northern zone, 33 percent in southern zone and 28 percent in western zone.

Percentage of areas controlled by the government, the Taliban or held by no side could be seen in the map.

Because of where people live, control of territory is different from control of population

According to findings of the Pajhwok survey more than 59 percent of the total population lives in areas under the government control while more than 38 percent lives in areas under the Taliban control. The remaining more than 2 percent lives in areas controlled by no side.

The Taliban control more area compared to what the government controls but the number of people in the areas under government control are more because the government controls cities like Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, Jalalabad, Herat and Kandahar where more people live.

Kuchi tribesmen make 1.5 million of the total population of the country but traditionally they have no permanent areas of residence. They sometimes move to Taliban areas and sometimes to the government controlled areas. They are excluded from the divided percentage.

Views of analysts:

Javid Kohistani, member of Jamiat-e-Islami political party a military and political affairs expert who possess in-depth knowledge and experienced on conflict and political affair of Afghanistan over the past 40 years told Pajhwok Afghan News about Pajhwok survey, said, “You did a great job, if we have a look at the map of Afghanistan, we can easily say that over 60 percent or up to 65 percent of the country’s territory is under Taliban’s control; but the government’s more control on people means that most of people live in cities.”

“There may be 10 to 15 percent of areas contested between the Taliban and the government, the government controls such areas during daytime while the Taliban control them in night. About the population, people who are displaced due to war and poverty and Afghan refugees who have returned from other countries mostly live in urban areas, may be 60 percent of people live in areas under government’s control,” he added.

He said, “There are districts in Afghanistan which have complete personnel who receive their salaries but they provide no services because they [workers, district chiefs and others] are not present there, most of them work from provincial capitals and security bases in such districts are supplied through the air.”

Speaking to Pajhwok, Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, head of Afghanistan Salvation Council (ASC) and former Taliban member, said: “I will briefly tell you that in general, the government controls capitals of provinces while most areas of districts are under the Taliban control. The government controls only district headquarters while the rest of other areas and people are under the Taliban’s control.” Agha said that more people lived in urban areas due to bombardments, air raids, poverty and other problems. “But it does not mean the people are with the government, no, people actually are not with the government,” he added.

He said: “The Taliban has control on 75 to 80 percent territory, the information you received is little and far from reality.” Agha did not provide evidence to support his claim of territorial control by the Taliban.

He said more people are living in the cities because people are afraid of blind airstrikes, raids. In addition, poverty and other social issues forced people to migrate to the cities. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that people support the government. People are not with the government from the core of their hearts,” he added.

Military affairs expert and former spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), General Dawlat Waziri while commenting on Pajhwok survey said:

“You have done a big job and conducted interviews with many people, but from military perspective I could not approved the outcome of your survey saying that the Taliban control 52 percent of territory.”

He added: “You cannot talk about territory control in guerrilla or civil war. It is possible that one day the Taliban may control 10, 20 or 60 percent of the territory but the next day all these areas will be in the government control. An area which in the not in the total control of no side can be called insecure area.”

Gran Hewad, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, said: “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been recognised as a legitimate government by all countries of the world and the United Nations. These state organs give lend to the Afghan government  –the people, the three pillars of the government, diplomatic ties with more than 100 countries and international organisations and the use of vote as state on international issues within the UN framework are key elements of Afghanistan’s legitimacy.

“An absolute majority of the country’s population lives in government-controlled areas. The three armed forces represent the will of the nation through the constitution, elections and representatives elected by the people … the main factors of legitimacy. The Taliban movement that the global fraternity is working with is a threat to peace in Afghanistan and the world at large. The Afghan government and world are working and negotiating with them to achieve peace.”

Afghanistan’s representatives in foreign countries are controlled by the government. Currently, the Taliban have an office only in Qatar, but their delegations travel to different countries of the world.

Rahmatullah Andar, former head of the National Security Council (NSC) and Tariq Aryan, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, did not comment on Pajhwok’s survey but both termed the Taliban claim of territory control as baseless.

Andar said: “The Taliban claim of having control on 10, 20 or 60 percent territory is baseless because authority can be enforced on legitimate territory where people are served and the rulers are answerable to the masses. A legitimate ruler could respond to all legal demands and rights of the people. It is also true that the Afghanistan Islamic Republic might have shortcomings when it comes to serving its people.”

Aryan said the Taliban claim to have control on 70 percent territory is baseless. He said: “The reality is this that the Taliban have no permanent presence in no area and they continued fighting on the bases of this unrealistic claim.”

He added the Taliban are killing the people, collect Ushar and Zakat from people, they force people to provide them food and create violence and instability in the areas where they have strong presence, and the Taliban are responsible for terrorist attacks.

Aryan said: “Last year the Taliban wanted to capture more districts, but we have recaptured 12 districts from 87 districts under the control. At every place where the Taliban have presence we go there and dismantle them.”

Nader Naderi, head of the Independent Civil Services and Administrative Reform Commission (ICSARC), said all civil servants apart from 15 districts had completed biometric process and now they have been working with the Ministry of Finance to transfer the salaries on the bases of biometric system.

He said: “Nangarhar’s Sherzad and Hisarak, Badakhshan’s Raghistan, Kohistan and Karan Manjan, Paktia’s Zurmat, Ghor’s Saghar, Taiwar and Tawlak, Baghlan’s Dahna, Khost, Burka, Nahrin and Jalga and Ghazni’s Gilan are districts where we don’t have access and the Taliban control these areas. ”

Naderi said this means that apart from these 15 districts, the government has territorial control on the remaining part of the country and provide services to the people.

But the Taliban Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid on Pajhwok Afghan News survey said: “We cannot approve the survey. Pajhwok collected information on telephone, it could not be ascertained that person talking on the phone had spoken accurately. Another major difference is that currently the Taliban has control on 62 districts. The Kabul administration transferred them to another place.”

Mujahid was asked to share the name of district under their control but he did not provide information until February 10th.

Mujahid added: “Your report suggested that we have control on 39 districts showing almost a half of differences with our figures. You may remember that two years back BBC conducted a survey in which it was revealed that the Islamic Emirates control 70 percent of Afghanistan’s territory and the reality is that we have control on more than 70 percent area and I could prove it.”

“The fact that two years back the Taliban controlled 70 percent area so after two years more changes had happened and more areas captured by the Taliban so I could not approve that survey and it is not authentic,” Mujahid said.

He said: “People who talked on the telephone might be government official and that person will talk in the government favour and take advantage on the bases of such reports by denying the reality therefore this report is not accurate. The Islamic Emirate control 70 to 75 percent of Afghanistan territory.”

Who provides what services?

Some analysts say Taliban ensure security of their areas and sometimes provide judicial services to people in urban areas as well as observe education, health and government projects while the government finances health and education centers and implements development projects in Taliban areas.

Javid Kohistani says security, health, education, transport, telecommunication, electricity, water, and judicial services should be provided by the government to people.

He said that Taliban had ensured security and enforced judicial affairs in areas of their control while the government provided services other than security and justice in Taliban areas.

“In some areas, Taliban also create troubles, for example, they tell people not to take photos, they stop people from using GPS or capturing videos, and enforce some other restrictions,” he said.

Kohistani said, “Besides supervising government projects in their areas, the Taliban do not let others create troubles for construction activities, projects are implemented with better quality in their areas, apart from that the Taliban also offer some services, for example they build roads in some areas, regularly check attendance of teachers and health workers, if a person fails to attend his job regularly, they appoint another person on the job.”

The Taliban also provide judicial and legal services to some people living in cities, he said. “I know people who traveled from north of the country to Quetta for solving their cases and problems by the Taliban, they also visit Taliban commissions inside the country to resolve their disputes. Taliban also took over control of security on highways after repeated complaints of drivers about security forces who extorted them, Taliban also have their own customs points in Zabul and Baghlan provinces and they charge taxes based on the type of goods,” he said.

ASC head, Sayed Akbar Agha said that the government provided poor quality services due to corruption.

“Taliban implement judicial services in their areas and even in areas under the government control, they ensure security of highways and that is the reason vehicles can move day and night without any fear”, he said.

But Waziri said the government provided all those services in the Taliban controlled areas which the Taliban are not opposed to.

He added government offered health and educational services in the Taliban controlled areas but yet the government is not controlling that particular area.

When asked if the Taliban offered services in the government controlled areas he said: “The Taliban has nothing to offer to the people, they cannot asphalt the road instead the destroy them. The Taliban cannot build buildings for schools and hospitals. The might have built few kilometer road somewhere to facilitate themselves not common people.”

Referring to the Taliban judicial system he said: “I don’t think so if majority of the people will refer to the Taliban. If an odd individual refer to the Taliban he might be inspired of them the reality is that the Taliban judicial system is based on force and intimidation.”

NSC Spokesperson Rahmatullah Andar said: “The Taliban did not provide any services to the people nor they exists as an authoritative body with legitimate power. They are using force and ruled on people in some areas. Authority possessed by the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan the Taliban have not authority and their presence is temporary everywhere.”

The Taliban spokesperson on the provision of services said: “We provided services to the people with available resources. Areas under our control are total secured except in case of airstrike by the Kabul administration of US forces. There is no robbery, no kidnapping in the areas under our control, judicial system is completely functional, education services are provided to the people attendance of teachers and students is regularly taken and we have good plans for the future.”

He added the Taliban are cooperating with educational and health services special in time when they are transferred from one place to another.

Mujahid said Unicef pledged to construct 4,000 schools in areas under their control and this will be a major development in the educational system of the country.

“We have strong monitoring system in the health sector and any contractor who act against their contract are punished and their contract is revoked,” he added.

Mujahid said the Taliban are active in areas under the government control. He added in the backdrop of growing kidnapping, robberies and lawlessness in Kabul, the Taliban appointed their personnel in some areas to ensure security.


According to Pajhwok Afghan News survey in which 1,266 persons participated, the Taliban control 52 percent of Afghanistan’s territory, the government control 46 percent while 59 percent population lived in the areas under the government control.

The survey shows that three percent territory is in the control of no side. The government has control on the provincial capitals of all 34 provinces while the Taliban control 39 district out of total 388 districts.

The readers are again requested in case they have accurate information challenging the survey at any stage they could share them with us on [email protected]


Pajhwok survey shows that government and the Taliban made exaggerated claims on controlling Afghanistan’s territory.


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