The Taliban have conquered more territory in Afghanistan in the past two months than at any time since the group was ousted from power in 2001.
Afghanistan’s control map has undergone constant transformation over the past 20 years. In the images below, we see changes in who controls which regions of the country.
In recent weeks, the Taliban seem encouraged by the gradual withdrawal of US troops and have taken many quarters from government forces.
Investigation by the BBC’s Afghan service shows that radical Muslim activists now have a strong presence across the country, including in northern, northeastern and central provinces such as Ghazni and Maidan Wardak.
They also approach big cities like Kunduz, Herat, Kandahar and Lashkar Gah.
The term “control” refers to districts where the administrative center, police headquarters and all other government institutions are controlled by the Taliban.
Troops from the United States, its allies in the region and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) ousted the Taliban from power in November 2001. At the time, the group was protecting Osama bin Laden and other Al Qaeda leaders linked to the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Despite the continued international presence in the region and billions of dollars in support and training for Afghan government forces, the Taliban have regrouped and gradually regained power in more remote areas.
Its main areas of influence were around the traditional southern and southwestern points: the northern provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul. In addition to these, they were also present in the Faryab Hills to the north and the Badakhshan Mountains to the northeast.
A 2017 BBC investigation showed that while in full control of several districts, the Taliban was also active in several other parts of the country, staging weekly or monthly attacks in some areas and suggesting significantly greater force than previous estimates.
About 15 million people, or half the population, lived in areas controlled by the Taliban or where the Taliban were openly present, launching regular attacks against government forces.
Are the Taliban gaining ground?
Although the Taliban now have more control than ever since 2001, the situation has changed.
The government was forced to abandon some administrative centers, where it could not withstand pressure from the Taliban. Other territories were taken by force by the militants.
But whenever the government has succeeded in reorganizing its forces or rallying local militias, it has succeeded in reclaiming some of the areas that had been lost (in the unrecovered places there is always a clash between the two sides) .
Although most of the US troops left in June, a smaller group remains in Kabul, and the US Air Force has carried out airstrikes against Taliban positions in recent days.
Afghan government forces mainly control towns and neighborhoods in the plains or river valleys, where the majority of the population also lives.
The areas where the Taliban are strongest are sparsely populated, many with less than 50 people per square kilometer.
The government says it has sent reinforcements to all major cities threatened by the Taliban and has imposed a month-long nighttime curfew across most of the country in an attempt to prevent the Taliban from encroaching on the cities.
Although it appears to be approaching cities like Herat and Kandahar, the Taliban have yet to conquer any.
However, this advance on the ground strengthens its negotiating position and also generates income in the form of taxes and war material collected in combat.
A record number of civilians have died as a result of the conflict in the first half of this year.
The UN attributes most of the 1,600 civilian deaths to the Taliban and other anti-government groups.
The clashes have also forced many people to flee their homes: around 300,000 people have been displaced since the start of the year.
UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said a new wave of internal displacement in Badakhshan, Kunduz, Balkh, Baghlan and Takhar provinces comes as the Taliban conquer large areas of rural land. .
While some people flee to neighboring villages or districts and return home a few days later, others remain displaced for some time.
AFP news agency reported that Taliban offensives also led Afghan refugees and government troops to cross the border into Tajikistan.
The Taliban is also believed to control several important border crossings, including Spin Boldak, a major gateway to Pakistan.
The Taliban now levy tariffs on goods entering the country through these controlled border posts, although the exact amounts are unclear as the volume of trade has declined due to the fighting.
For example, the passage of Islam Qala, on the border with Iran, is capable of generating more than 20 million dollars per month.
The interruption in the flow of imports and exports affected the prices of essential goods in the markets, mainly fuel and food.