As Americans prepare to celebrate the 4th of July commemorating the nation’s birthday when we officially declared our independence, we will have cookouts, attend baseball games and concerts, and of course, enjoy fireworks.

Somewhere in the midst of those activities, we may pause to remember those who fought to protect our freedoms in past wars and those who are far away from backyard grilling, serving in posts with unfamiliar names in hostile lands.

Afghanistan is one of those places.

Most Americans probably don’t realize that there are still more than 10,000 U.S. troops, but despite the continuing presence, an independent source reports that al-Qaeda not only remains a threat, but is a growing one contrary to the official estimate released by the Afghan government.

The Long War Journal, an American news site that covers the Global War on Terror through embedded reporters and international sources, is warning that these estimates of al Qaeda’s numbers and strength in Afghanistan are inaccurate and fail to acknowledge the “worsening security situation” since the government’s last report.

While the Ministry of Interior in Afghanistan reports that nine districts in the country have seen “increased activities,” this is an increase from the four districts under Taliban control in 2015 when the chief of operations for the Ministry of Defense, Major General Mohammad Afzal Aman, told the New York Times, “No other area except those four districts is under the enemy control now.”

The Long War Journal claims that even that estimate was low.

The government of Afghanistan, like the Obama administration, is motivated to underestimate the extent of Taliban control, which is complete now at 39 districts and at play in another 43 throughout the country.

The worsening security situation has allowed al Qaeda to set up training camps, including one in the Kandahar district, without detection by U.S. or Afghan forces.

One such camp served as home base to an al Qaeda cell, covering more than 30 square miles where weapons, ammunition, and other supplies were stored.

Despite President Obama’s assurances that his gradual, “lead from behind” strategy to combat radical Islamic terrorism is working, the vicious attacks in Orlando, Turkey and Bangladesh in a period of only a few weeks tell a different tale, as does the rising strength of extremist factions in forgotten Afghanistan.

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