US and Nato troops are finally withdrawing from Afghanistan after 20 years of war. The Taliban, who they came to defeat, are rapidly retaking territory across the country, BBC reports.
How has the war changed Afghanistan, and what comes next?
Are the Taliban back?
The Taliban – a fundamentalist Islamist militia – were forced from power when US-led forces invaded in 2001. Democratic presidential elections and a new constitution were established, but the Taliban waged a long insurgency, gradually regaining strength and drawing more US and Nato forces into the conflict.
Now, as the US withdraws the last of its troops, the group is retaking many districts, reimposing their strict form of Sharia law.
The BBC Afghan service confirmed the situation across the country on 12 July – verifying which areas were under Taliban or government control.
The areas marked as contested are where fighting is happening or the Taliban have a strong presence in parts of the district.
The situation on the ground is fluid, and restricted access to some parts of the country make it difficult to verify reports, but it is clear that the Taliban are making significant gains. They are thought to now control about a third of the country.
How many people have died since 2001?
Twenty years of fighting have left thousands of fighters dead on both sides in Afghanistan and across the border in neighbouring Pakistan. Civilians have also been caught up in the conflict – dying in coalition air strikes and targeted attacks by the Taliban.
The number of civilians killed in the first three months of 2021 was “significantly higher” than a year ago, an increase attributed by the United Nations to the use of improvised explosive devices – IEDs – and targeted killings.
Women and children made up 43% of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2020.