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.

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    Commentary

    Training Foreign Military Forces: Quality vs Quantity

    Jul 15, 2015

    The American model for large-scale development of partner nation armies is failing. The push for numbers and the attendant dilution of training is at odds with building a cohesive army with the will to stand and fight, predicated upon an unproven assumption that a “large footprint” is itself a decisive strategy.

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    Commentary

    Afghanistan After the Drawdown

    Jul 6, 2015

    If neither victory nor a political settlement are likely in the short term, and if complete withdrawal is unpalatable, then the United States must ensure that its support of Afghanistan remains politically sustainable.

Explore Afghanistan

  • Report

    Information Operations: The Imperative of Doctrine Harmonization and Measures of Effectiveness

    In an update to a 2012 RAND report on information operations (IO) in Afghanistan, this paper describes the continuing challenges of IO doctrine integration and harmonization and the establishment of measures of effectiveness for IO.

    Aug 28, 2015

  • Afghan National Army soldiers, advised and assisted by NATO Train, Advise, Assist Command, conduct a fire support mission in Zabul province, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    In Afghanistan, the Glass Is Still Better Seen as Half Full: A Response to Gary Owen

    While things are certainly not “great” in Afghanistan, there are more reasons for hope than many had expected to see by this point in the transition from a large U.S. presence to a greatly reduced one.

    Aug 24, 2015

  • Afghan officials in Pakistan August 13, 2015 discussing reviving suspended peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, days after Taliban attacks killed dozens of people in Kabul

    Commentary

    Afghanistan, Choose Your Enemies Wisely

    The Taliban's new leadership may be the last decent opportunity for a political solution to the conflict. Without one, the Islamic State could make Afghanistan the next Iraq or Syria.

    Aug 24, 2015

  • U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice visits Camp Commando near Kabul, Afghanistan to discuss the state of Afghan Special Forces with mentors to the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command on Nov. 24, 2013

    Report

    Best Practices for Special Operations Advisory Groups

    Special Operations Advisory Groups are tasked with the responsibility of advising commanders and staff of the Afghan Special Security Forces. In-depth interviews with these personnel address rapport building, pre-deployment training, and continuity of operations.

    Aug 10, 2015

  • Afghan Road Maintenance Team members learn proper weapon firing positions during a combat skills class taught by International Security Assistance Force Special Operations Forces at Forward Operating Base Kutschbach, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2010

    Report

    Building Special Operations Partnerships

    Building the capacity of Afghan special operations forces (SOF) is a key goal of the U.S. and its coalition partners. An analysis of partnering practices from case studies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia helps identify best practices to benefit the development of Afghan SOF, as well as partnerships beyond Afghanistan.

    Jul 31, 2015

  • A U.S. Army sergeant assists Iraqi army soldiers as they practice Military Operations in Urban Terrain procedures at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

    Commentary

    Training Foreign Military Forces: Quality vs Quantity

    The American model for large-scale development of partner nation armies is failing. The push for numbers and the attendant dilution of training is at odds with building a cohesive army with the will to stand and fight, predicated upon an unproven assumption that a “large footprint” is itself a decisive strategy.

    Jul 15, 2015

  • A contractor captures biological data of a local man in the Laghman province of Afghanistan, December 14, 2014

    Commentary

    A Frontline Civilian's Invisible Wounds of War

    For frontline civilians, daily life built around war often involves waking up on a remote base and working side by side with soldiers in hazardous places. They often don't get the care and support that they need, whether in an area of crisis and instability, or when they return home.

    Jul 6, 2015

  • A checkpoint in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on March 10, 2012

    Commentary

    Afghanistan After the Drawdown

    If neither victory nor a political settlement are likely in the short term, and if complete withdrawal is unpalatable, then the United States must ensure that its support of Afghanistan remains politically sustainable.

    Jul 6, 2015

  • A U.S. Army crew chief scans his sector from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, May 8, 2015

    Commentary

    Understanding the U.S. Military's Morale Crisis

    The military's discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results. Those wars arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

    Jun 29, 2015

  • Afghan children gather raw opium in a poppy field on the outskirts of Jalalabad, April 28, 2015

    Report

    Reducing Opium Poppy Cultivation in Southern Afghanistan

    What's driving opium poppy cultivation in southern Afghanistan? And how might rural development, eradication, and other programs affect farmers' decisions to cultivate?

    Jun 17, 2015

  • An Afghan border policeman escorts a detained suspected Taliban fighter near Walli Was in Paktika province near border with Pakistan November 5, 2012

    Commentary

    Expanding the Caliphate

    ISIS in South Asia, which it calls the Islamic State of Khorasan, is larger than most recognize, boasting between several hundred and several thousand fighters. But for now, it is closer to a loose affiliate than a direct arm of the organization.

    Jun 12, 2015

  • The Midnight Mission shelter on skid row before a Veterans Day observance for homeless veterans in Los Angeles, California, November 11, 2013

    Commentary

    Veterans Battle Mental Health Issues After Iraq and Afghanistan

    Researchers have made great progress capturing the consequences of coping with injuries sustained in the theater of war, but the emerging picture is shadowed in grays. A series of recent findings presents a bleak portrait of the cost of modern war to service members, their families, and their health care providers.

    Jun 4, 2015

  • 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