Afghanistan

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Afghanistan has long been a crossroads of world cultures, economies, politics, and militaries. RAND's early research on Afghanistan examined the 1980s Soviet military campaign and the subsequent fundamentalist Islamic regime. Since Operation Enduring Freedom, the 2001 U.S. military effort to rout the Taliban and find Osama bin Ladin's Al Qaeda network, RAND has engaged the new Afghan government, military, and people to support reconstruction, counterinsurgency, and nation-building efforts.

  • Afghan security forces arrive at the site of a blast in Kabul November 18, 2014, photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

    Commentary

    What's the Plan? The NATO Coalition in Afghanistan

    Nov 19, 2014

    The imminent changes to the NATO mission in Afghanistan will be profound and, more crucially, carry unpredictable outcomes. After January 1, the removal of tens of thousands of coalition troops will trigger an inevitable period of adjustment as all sides involved in the conflict press for a new equilibrium that tilts in its favor.

  • Afghan national security adviser Hanif Atmar (front R) and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham sign the bilateral security agreement as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (back 3rd R) and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (back 3rd L) look on, in Kabul, September 30, 2014, photo by Mohammad Ismail/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Future Lies in Afghanistan's Hands

    Oct 3, 2014

    With the signing of international security agreements this week, there's been a resurgence of hope that a bright future for Afghanistan is possible. But that future will ultimately be determined only by the Afghans.

Explore Afghanistan

  • Journal Article

    Determining U.S. Commitments in Afghanistan

    As the Obama administration's tenure winds down and the United States withdraws nearly all of its troops from Afghanistan, debates about the nature and scale of future U.S. involvement in Afghanistan continue.

    May 21, 2015

  • People run for cover after an explosion in Jalalabad April 18, 2015

    Commentary

    Has Islamic State Entered Afghanistan?

    The bulk of the Islamic State of Khorasan is thought to be in Pakistan, but the group is trying to make inroads into Afghanistan. That said, the group's actual ability to operate in Afghanistan appears rather limited.

    May 4, 2015

  • A member of the Taliban insurgency during the execution of three men in Ghazni Province, April 18, 2015

    Commentary

    The Afghan Warlord with a Cheshire Cat Grin

    Matiullah Khan was an Afghan militia leader turned police chief whose rise to power demonstrated both the dangers and opportunities posed by the lack of governance in Afghanistan. The victim of a Taliban suicide bomber, his death left a power vacuum that persists today. His successor, Gulab Khan, was murdered last week.

    Apr 30, 2015

  • Afghan President Ashraf Ghani while addressing a joint meeting of Congress in Washington, March 25, 2015

    Commentary

    Give Ghani a Chance: Why This Time Is Different

    After years of broken promises, there's reason to believe that these will be kept under President Ashraf Ghani and that the pronouncements about a better U.S.-Afghan future deserve the benefit of the doubt.

    Mar 31, 2015

  • An Afghan National Security Forces soldier keeps watch in Kabul, November 23, 2013

    Commentary

    A Better Afghan Strategy: Lose the Timeline

    It's in America's strategic interest to once and for all do away with its arbitrary timeline in favor of a strategy that provides its Afghan partners with something to preserve and nurture, not something to dread losing.

    Mar 26, 2015

  • Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani during a news conference in Kabul, December 6, 2014

    Commentary

    How to 'Fix' Afghanistan

    Sowing the seeds of future success in bringing peace to Afghanistan requires no new U.S. boots on the ground or extravagant financial commitments. Rather, it takes a willingness to continue to engage with Afghanistan's dynamic set of political challenges in small, but meaningful ways.

    Mar 24, 2015

  • Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter at their news conference following diplomatic meetings at Camp David, Maryland, March 23, 2015

    Commentary

    What Afghanistan Wants from Washington

    Afghan President Ghani's main mission in coming to Washington is to change the American view of Afghanistan, not so much inside the Obama administration as on Capitol Hill. This view remains a mostly negative one, formed by a seemingly endless war, high levels of government corruption, and repeated expressions of rank ingratitude on the part of Ghani's predecessor.

    Mar 23, 2015

  • Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani inspects the honour guard during a graduation ceremony at the National Military Academy in Kabul, March 18, 2015

    Commentary

    Q&A: What to Expect from Ghani's U.S. Visit

    With Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's first official visit to the United States set to begin Sunday, a trio of RAND researchers discuss what to expect after the president and his chief executive officer, Abdullah Abdullah, arrive in Washington.

    Mar 20, 2015

  • Afghan National Army commandos board an Afghan National Air Force MI-17 helicopter at a landing zone near Camp Lawton, in Herat province, Afghanistan

    Report

    Cost-Effective Helicopter Options for Partner Nations

    Department of Defense assistance to partner nations entails supporting helicopter fleets, often composed of outdated and difficult-to-service equipment. What is the cost-effectiveness of migrating partner nation fleets to alternative aircraft?

    Mar 2, 2015

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    Multimedia

    Lessons from 13 Years of War

    In this podcast, Linda Robinson discusses how U.S. conventional and special operations forces have worked closely together during the past 13 years and how special operations forces could be used in current conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

    Dec 10, 2014

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    Multimedia

    The Challenges for Democracies Facing Asymmetric Conflicts

    In this podcast, Admiral Amichay Ayalon and Brian Michael Jenkins discuss lessons learned in using military force in response to terrorism, and their legal, ethical, and moral implications.

    Dec 4, 2014

  • Afghan National Army soldiers walk at the Forward Base in Nari district near the army outpost in Kunar province, February 24, 2014

    Commentary

    What's the Plan? The Afghan National Security Forces

    The Afghan National Security Forces remain very much a work in progress. In the coming months, the resiliency and cohesiveness of the ANSF will be put to the test as the NATO coalition transitions to a non-combat mission. Growing pains can be expected.

    Dec 2, 2014

  • Afghan security forces arrive at the site of a blast in Kabul November 18, 2014

    Commentary

    What's the Plan? The NATO Coalition in Afghanistan

    The imminent changes to the NATO mission in Afghanistan will be profound and, more crucially, carry unpredictable outcomes. After January 1, the removal of tens of thousands of coalition troops will trigger an inevitable period of adjustment as all sides involved in the conflict press for a new equilibrium that tilts in its favor.

    Nov 19, 2014

  • Afghan policemen in Kabul

    Commentary

    Afghanistan After America: A Fragile Stability

    Since 2011, the United States, the Afghan government, and the Taliban have engaged in intermittent and often indirect talks about peace negotiations. It may be stalemate on the battlefield that eventually forces the parties to break this stalemate over the shape of a peace process.

    Nov 14, 2014

  • Afghan men attend an election campaign by Afghan presidential candidate Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai in Kabul, June 8, 2014

    Commentary

    Are Ethnic Politics Afghanistan's Great Hope?

    Afghanistan's ethnic politics have tended to absorb inter-communal struggle more than exacerbate it. Afghan politicians have consistently opted for an ethnic balance of power once the votes are counted. The unity government deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry aims to restore the ethnic balance that persisted under Hamid Karzai for more than a decade.

    Nov 11, 2014

  • Afghanistan's CEO Abdullah Abdullah and President Ashraf Ghani walk with Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, October 3, 2014

    Commentary

    What's the Plan? The Afghan Government

    With the election dispute settled, one can sense a feeling of hope and opportunity among the Afghan political spectrum. Members of each camp are voicing optimism and saying the right things, but before the unity government can address the country's issues, it must first clear the hurdle of appointing new leadership.

    Nov 10, 2014

  • Afghan national security adviser Hanif Atmar (front R) and U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham sign the bilateral security agreement as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (back 3rd R) and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (back 3rd L) look on, in Kabul, September 30, 2014

    Commentary

    The Future Lies in Afghanistan's Hands

    With the signing of international security agreements this week, there's been a resurgence of hope that a bright future for Afghanistan is possible. But that future will ultimately be determined only by the Afghans.

    Oct 3, 2014

  • U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry with Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani

    Commentary

    Afghanistan's Best Bet

    On Sunday, Ashraf Ghani was declared the victor in a contest to determine Afghanistan's next president. The process has been infuriating but the end product of this mess was the best possible outcome: best for Afghanistan, best for the region, and best for the United States.

    Sep 24, 2014

  • Afghan election workers count ballot papers for an audit of the presidential run-off in Kabul August 27, 2014

    Commentary

    Afghanistan Back to the Brink

    The impasse between the Abdullah and Ghani camps has grown so significant that some senior Afghan political and security officials considered imposing an interim government, a move tantamount to a coup.

    Sep 8, 2014

  • India's Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) personnel march during a rehearsal for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, January 4, 2013

    Commentary

    Let's Talk About Kashmir

    When U.S. combat troops have withdrawn from Afghanistan in December 2014, and training units follow two years later, the dynamics that once turned northern India's Kashmir into both a target and an incubator of global terrorism may return. This would threaten U.S. security, as well as that of the region.

    Sep 8, 2014