As the war without end in Afghanistan continues after more than 16 years since the U.S. entered to throw out the Taliban, government officials admit that the Taliban is continuing to strengthen and gain territory.

With the Taliban and the Haqqani groups basically as one, that is a major reason for the increase in what security officials deem Taliban troop strength numbers. The two used to be considered separate networks, and are now deemed as one.

As Kabul reels from a deadly wave of terror attacks, the numbers tell the tale. The percentage of the Afghan population under the control of the central government has slipped, the land mass under the control of coalition forces is shrinking, and the number of Taliban fighters may have doubled in the past four years.

In 2014, U.S. officials told NBC News that the number of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan was about 20,000. Four years later, one U.S. defense official said the current Taliban strength is at least 60,000. Another senior U.S. official said 60,000 “passes the sniff test,” while a third official said 60,000 is “a place to start.

An Afghan official told NBC News earlier this month that the Afghan estimate of Taliban strength is also 60,000. That marks a significant increase from the estimate of 35,000 that Afghanistan’s TOLOnews attributed to an Afghan defense official in 2011.

Afghan government control over the countryside is down to about 60 percent which is down from October where it was considered to hold 65 percent of the country. In 2016, the Afghan government was in control 70 percent of the countryside.

With the influx of U.S. troops to support the Afghan military in an advisory role, the coming months will be important to see if the US-supported government can turn the tide and seize the initiative.

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