Taliban Broaden Their Reach in Villages Across Afghanistan by Jessica Donati and Habib Khan Totakhil, Wall Street Journal
The Taliban have expanded their military fight against Afghanistan’s government into a drive to administer villages across the country, deepening the formidable challenge U.S.-backed forces face in trying to uproot the insurgency.
The insurgents, once focused on waging guerrilla war from strongholds in opium-rich provinces like Helmand, are now emerging in a swath of districts to fill a governance vacuum left as foreign troops depart. As a result, millions of Afghans are once again having to adapt to life under Taliban rule.
More local Taliban groups are now functioning as governing entities, administering services for which the state pays, such as education and electricity, and collecting their own taxes from farmers and sometimes protection money from businesses. The growing influence is helping them generate revenue for recruits and spread distrust in Afghanistan’s shaky government.
The Taliban wielded significant control over 8.4 million Afghans—almost a third of the population—at the end of 2016, up from 5 million a year earlier, according to a confidential United Nations report reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The report showed that the territory over which the insurgents have significant influence or control increased from 30% to 40% of the country over the same period…