Mapping the Afghan war, while murky, points to Taliban gains

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Trying to map the long war in Afghanistan has become an increasingly challenging task as the planned withdrawal of all U.S. forces looms. Since the U.S.-led invasion of 2001 and subsequent overthrow of Afghanistan’s Taliban government, insurgent activity shrank, then began to grow again as the conflict stretched on for two decades. Now, as the withdrawal looms by summer, even American officials acknowledge being publicly in the dark about the Taliban’s strength. One expert believes half of the country’s some 400 districts are now contested between the government and the Taliban, with over 120 fully government controlled and more than 70 fully held by the Taliban. But even that number likely underplays the Taliban’s strength.