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Weekly Graphic

Taliban Battlespace In Afghanistan, 2016

Sept. 17, 2016 This map reflects the current Taliban battlespace in Afghanistan. Districts shaded in red are under Taliban control, meaning that the district headquarters in the main town, as well as the majority of surrounding areas, are controlled by the Taliban. The districts in yellow are partly under Taliban control. Although the Afghan government still holds the district headquarters, the Taliban holds power in surrounding areas. The Afghan government confirmed in late July that roughly a third of Afghanistan’s 384 districts are under serious threat from insurgent groups. Our research suggests that 44 districts are under Taliban control and 101 are under partial Taliban control.

The Taliban have been able to successfully push forward and capture territory all across Afghanistan for several reasons. Firstly, the Afghan government and its security forces are weak and fragile, facing internal dissention and unable to combat the Taliban on more than one front at a time. Secondly, the Taliban have been able to reach across the ethnolinguistic and tribal barriers that have historically kept Afghanistan’s population divided, allowing it to garner support and establish footholds all over the country. Lastly, the Taliban are well organized and effective, despite having three leaders in as many years. It has a hierarchical leadership structure, with regional commanders that have support and knowledge of the areas they control. Because of this, the group is able to execute surges and take territory on multiple fronts simultaneously.

Germany’s Perspective

Sept. 10, 2016 This map shows the geographical perspective of Germany. It is situated on the North European Plain, characterized by relatively flat topography, which it shares with parts of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, southern Scandinavia, Poland and western Russia. Though bordered to the north by the Baltic and North seas and to the south by the Alps, Germany has no significant natural boundaries to the east or west. Germany’s geographical position leaves the country permanently vulnerable to invasion – particularly from France in the west and Russia in the east.

Germany’s geographical reality and the subsequent deep-rooted fear of invasion has been a driving force in the country’s political history. In the 1870s, Prussian strategists created an alliance of independent German-speaking states to form a cohesive economic bloc and political unit that would be able to deter – or fight – potential invaders. In 1905, fear of invasion led Count Alfred von Schlieffen to propose a two-front war against France and Russia, believing that striking first would give Germany an advantage. Today, Germany continues to try to protect itself from outside threats, using the European Union and ensuing European integration to dominate the North European Plain and shield itself from historical rivals. By entangling itself in the EU’s web of political and economic alliances and dependencies, Germany hopes to keep its adversaries subdued.

U.S. State International Exports

Sept. 3, 2016 When we speak about the U.S. economy, we often pay less attention to the economies of the individual states. The states, however, are also political and economic entities. California, for example, would have roughly the seventh largest GDP in the world if it were a country. To understand the U.S. economy, you have to be able to see both the forest and the trees.

This week’s graphic demonstrates the level of dependency each U.S. state has on exports and breaks down each state’s top three international trading partners. Overall, the economy of the United States is not reliant on exports, which made up a mere 12.6 percent of GDP in 2015. Only five states, including Louisiana (20.18 percent), Washington (19.48 percent) and Texas (15.79 percent), get more of their GDP from exports than the national average. The most common export destinations for U.S. states are Canada, Mexico and China.

Asylum Claims in Europe

Aug. 27, 2016 This week’s graphic shows asylum claims in Europe in 2015, when over 1.3 million people sought refuge in Europe. To prevent an intensification of the migration crisis, the EU signed a deal with Turkey. In exchange for 3 billion euros (with the possibility of 3 billion more by 2018) and the promise of visa-free travel in the EU, Turkey said it would accept returned migrants from Greece. Before the deal, more than a thousand refugees were arriving in Greece every day. Since the deal, the number has dropped to approximately 60.

The Battle of Aleppo as of Aug. 17, 2016

Aug. 20, 2016 Aleppo is the center of gravity in the conflict between the Assad loyalists and Syrian rebels. Aleppo is Syria’s largest city and pre-war commercial capital. It is located in the wider province of the same name, which has a long border with Turkey – the rebels’ main staging ground. Many different battles are raging in the province of Aleppo. They involve regime forces, different rebel factions, al-Qaida’s Syrian affiliate, the Islamic State and separatist Kurds.

Approval Ratings of Putin and Governors

Aug. 13, 2016 Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest approval ratings are high – more than 80 percent of the population supports his actions. But the approval rate for regional governors has been below 50 percent since the end of 2014, according to Levada Center, an independent Russia-based polling organization. With the presidential election in 2018, Putin needs support in the Duma for the next two years. To get support in the Duma, he needs to make sure that his United Russia Party wins the September parliamentary elections.

NAFTA Trade, 2015

Aug. 6, 2016 NAFTA currently serves as the framework that dictates how the U.S., the world’s largest economy, carries out trade with two of its top three trading partners. It also encompasses the three major economies of the Western Hemisphere, distinct for its stability while much of Eurasia is in crisis. The debate around NAFTA in the U.S. has focused on its impact on employment, though there is no definitive evidence showing what its impact has been. This graphic shows the level of trade between the three NAFTA members.

Relative Advantage of Mexican States

July 30, 2016 This map illustrates that two different economies coexist within Mexico. Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography generated this data by measuring several development indicators, including housing infrastructure, basic furnishings, overcrowding, health, education and employment levels. The higher a state’s overall standard of living, the higher its ranking.

Economic activity in each state correlates with these rankings. Mexico’s central and northern states are home to advanced industry, attract foreign direct investment and/or are strategically located near strong trade flows associated with the U.S. border. Meanwhile, the southern states’ economies are more dependent on agriculture and primitive industry, with higher numbers of informal, low-wage laborers. Government figures show that from 1980 to 2014, per capita GDP in central and northern states grew by about 50 percent. In the south, this figure increased a mere 9 percent.

Unemployment and GDP in Europe

July 23, 2016 This week’s map takes a look at Europe using two economic metrics: GDP growth and unemployment. One of the first things to note is that besides Estonia, the only countries in Europe that are growing at a rate of over 1 percent are either in the Balkans or right next door (Romania). Most of Western, Central and northern Europe is growing at under 1 percent and a few countries even experienced first quarter contraction: Ireland, Hungary and Poland, among others.

The second thing to note is that while the Balkans have decent growth rates, unemployment is very high, as it is throughout southern Europe, from Spain to Greece. Italy’s unemployment figure is somewhat misleading as there is a huge north-south divide. In southern Italy, unemployment is closer to the rate seen in Balkan countries than Italy’s average.

Islamic State Attacks Outside of Core Since June 2014

July 16, 2016 This is a map of attacks either directly carried out by the Islamic State or inspired by their message. The map does not take into account attacks in Syria and Iraq, as that is core Islamic State territory and strikes there are directly linked to IS’ goal of maintaining territorial control of its caliphate. The goal of this map is to show the global reach of IS ideology and activities.

IS has either directed or inspired attacks on every major continent except South America, and South America’s exceptional status is not for lack of trying. IS has targeted majority Muslim nations from Tunisia to Indonesia. It has targeted Western nations from the United States to Australia. There are roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Islamic State, however falsely, purports to speak for them all. Its ambitions are global.

GDP Per Capita Change in Europe

July 9, 2016 With worrying signals this week about the German economy and the Italian banking sector, Europe has been at the forefront of our minds. So we have chosen here to present a map of the percentage change in GDP per capita in Europe to show how growth has developed over the past 20 years.

GDP per capita is, like all measurements, an imperfect statistic, but it is a useful way of comparing the performance of various economies in terms of standard of living and overall economic productivity.

Areas with Strong Nationalist Tendencies

July 2, 2016 The most striking images are often those that take something we think we know well and turn it on its head. This map is one of those images. The borders of Europe have changed over time, but since national self-determination became the most important organizing principle for European states in the 19th century, there have been some relatively constant entities: France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Spain.

We tend to think of these as coherent nation-states. But even these countries contain groups that don’t identify with their national identity as French, British, German, Italian or Spanish.

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