Report: Taliban at their strongest since 2001

Report: Taliban at their strongest since 2001
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The Taliban’s reach in Afghanistan is greater than at any point since the United States ousted them from power in 2001, according to data reported by The New York Times.

In September, about half of Afghanistan’s districts were considered to have a threat level of high or extreme, according to United Nations data obtained by the Times and reported Sunday.

High or extreme threat levels mean U.N. personnel can’t travel to or through the area, according to the Times. Extreme means that the district either has no government presence at all or a government presence only in the district capital.

The threat information is also used by aid groups to determine where it’s safe to operate, according to the Times.

Thirty-eight districts in 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are considered at an extreme threat level, according to the Times. And 28 of the total provinces have districts with high or extreme threat levels.

Also, the Times reported, the U.N. has evacuated personnel from four cities recently, the most it has ever done for security reasons. The evacuations were in Kunduz when it was overrun by the Taliban last month, as well as in Pul-i-Kumri, Faizabad and Maimana for fear of similar attacks.

The Times report comes as the Obama administration considers whether to leave U.S. troops in the country beyond 2016.

Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told the Senate and House Armed Services committees last week that changing conditions, including a resurgent Taliban, required U.S. troops to stay in the country.

But, he added in the Senate, he does not believe the Taliban would be able to wrest control of the whole control even if the United States were to withdraw.