Editor’s note: We may have precious few reasons to like the Taliban but if they are able to accomplish this with just minor Pakistani support, against the entire NATO and its trillions of dollars, it would indicate that in Afghan eyes, and in comparison to the Western-backed collaborators in Kabul, they are the more legitimate and proper Afghan government.
With hopes that the 2020 US peace deal and intra-Afghan peace talks might ultimately end decades of war, some uncomfortable facts remain, raising the question of who controls Afghanistan anymore.
The US would insist the Ghani government is the lawfully elected government there, but the facts on the ground show that the Taliban physically control 52% of the country, compared to only 48% in government hands.
That’s a staggering amount when one considers that the Taliban has been fighting 20 solid years of war with both the would-be government and NATO. It would be hard to imagine that people living in Taliban territory wouldn’t feel that the Taliban, who was the Afghan government before the 2001 invasion, is effectively still in charge.
The Ghani government has focused mostly on densely populated areas, and argues they control 59% of the population. Yet Afghanistan is not a nation of cities by and large, but a rural country with a lot of natural resources and farms. Controlling physical land is ultimately more important to the country’s future.
This has been the case for some time, with the Taliban having retained important parts of the country, particularly in the south and southwest.