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.

  • Al Qaeda fighters celebrate on vehicles taken from Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, March 20, 2014, Reuters

    Testimony

    Counterterrorism and the Role of Special Operations Forces

    Apr 8, 2014

    Over the long run, the persistent nature of the terrorism threat to the United States suggests that special operations forces should remain a key part of the struggle against al Qa’ida and other Salafi-jihadist groups.

Explore Afghanistan

  • 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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

    Blog

    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

  • Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping shake hands before the opening ceremony of the fourth Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia summit in Shanghai May 21, 2014

    Report

    China's Strategy Toward South and Central Asia

    China's response to the complex challenges on its western borders during the past two decades has been to adopt an "Empty Fortress" strategy, whereby China boldly projects an image of considerable strength in Central and South Asia to mask serious frailty. China is not a major threat to U.S. interests there and is unlikely to pose one in the near future.

    Aug 11, 2014

  • U.S. soldiers on patrol in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, April 24, 2012

    Blog

    Iraq's Lessons for Afghanistan

    The successes of ISIS and other Sunni groups have raised important questions about the wisdom of America's decision to withdraw U.S. military forces from Iraq in 2011. They raise equally significant questions about the U.S. decision to exit Afghanistan in the future.

    Aug 4, 2014

  • Afghan security forces leave the site of burning NATO supply trucks after an attack by militants near the Pakistani-Afghan border, June 19, 2014

    Blog

    Is Afghanistan the Next to Crumble?

    Amid the stunning rout of Iraqi forces in northern Iraq, many have asked whether a similar reversal of American foreign policy goals is possible in Afghanistan. The answer is a qualified yes. Now is the time for the United States to understand Afghanistan's coming struggle, and to help Afghans build a path to stability.

    Jun 24, 2014

  • Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah holds up his ink-stained finger as he casts his vote at a polling station in Kabul June 14, 2014

    Blog

    Victory, Afghan Style

    A good outcome in Afghanistan seems less likely now than a few weeks ago, but there is still cause for guarded optimism: before this electoral season, few would have guessed that the final showdown would be between a pair of level-headed pro-Western moderates rather than two foul, bloodstained warlords.

    Jun 23, 2014

  • Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani

    Report

    Iran's Interests in Afghanistan Provide Opportunities for Cooperation with United States

    Iran and U.S. relations have been strained but both countries want to see a stable Afghanistan free of Taliban control. In the event of a nuclear deal, Iran and the U.S. can work together to counter narcotics trafficking and resolve water disputes between the neighboring nations.

    Jun 19, 2014

  • News Release

    Iran's Interests in Afghanistan Provide Opportunities for Cooperation with United States

    Although relations between Iran and the U.S. have been strained, both countries have similar goals in wanting to see a stable Afghanistan free of Taliban control. In the event of a nuclear deal, Iran and the U.S. can work together in countering narcotics trafficking in Afghanistan and resolve water disputes between the neighboring nations.

    Jun 19, 2014

  • Report

    It Takes a Village: Network Effects on Rural Education in Afghanistan

    Studies the playmate networks of children in 31 rural villages of central Afghanistan and how that relational information could improve programming of a rural schooling program.

    Jun 13, 2014

  • U.S. President Barack Obama stands with Bob Bergdahl and Jami Bergdahl as he delivers a statement about the release of their son, prisoner of war U.S. Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington May 31, 2014

    Blog

    The Bergdahl-Taliban Prisoner Exchange Isn't New, but Presents Unique Questions

    While it's been many years since the United States secured the release of a POW via prisoner exchange, RAND's Jonah Blank, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff member, says that such deals are nothing new.

    Jun 4, 2014

  • A NATO helicopter flies overhead as smoke rises from the site of a suicide attack in Jalalabad province May 12, 2014. Taliban militants launched a wave of attacks across Afghanistan on Monday, the first day of their declared summer offensive

    Blog

    Is There a Hidden Message in the Taliban's 2014 Fighting Season Plan?

    The Taliban announced “Khaibar,” their plan for the operations they will be conducting this spring and summer. The reference to Khaibar — a conventional battle in which noncombatants were left unharmed — might actually hint at a strategy aimed at post-conflict reconciliation.

    May 31, 2014

  • A suicide car bomb hit two diplomatic vehicles entering the Indian Embassy in Kabul on July 7, 2008

    Blog

    Book Review: A Reporter Analyzes the Driving Role of Pakistan in the Afghan War

    With its focus on Pakistan, Gall's “The Wrong Enemy” is a valuable contribution to a body of work on the American war in Afghanistan that has become stale and hackneyed. It provides a raw, unvarnished look at one of the darkest and least understood parts of the war.

    Apr 11, 2014

  • Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah attend an election campaign in Panjshir province March 31, 2014

    Blog

    The Importance of the Election in Afghanistan

    It is easy to assume the outcome of the race doesn't really matter for U.S. policy. But an ossifying government excludes and disenfranchises youth with new ideas. Without popular participation, Afghanistan's future becomes more prone to partisan cleavages and extremism.

    Apr 7, 2014

  • Report

    Lessons Learned from the Afghan Mission Network: Developing a Coalition Contingency Network

    Reviews and assesses the operational and technical history of the Afghan Mission Network, the primary network for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, and identifies lessons learned for future coalition networks.

    Mar 28, 2014

  • U.S. troops stand guard at the site of a suicide car bomb attack in Kabul

    Blog

    Stuck Between a Rock and the 'Zero Option'

    A total drawdown of American forces — the “zero option” — is a real possibility. Recently, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced the United States would begin planning for this contingency because of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's failure to sign a bilateral security agreement.

    Mar 13, 2014

  • Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah hold posters of him during an election rally in Parwan province, northern Afghanistan, March 20, 2014

    Report

    Democracy in Afghanistan: The 2014 Election and Beyond

    Afghanistan's April 5th presidential election is the most important political event in the country's decade-long transition to democracy. A successful election would be a major blow to the Taliban and al Qaida, and would renew Afghan efforts to bring the war to a favorable conclusion. The international community should recognize that Afghanistan deserves support to get through the process.

    Mar 12, 2014

  • Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Zalmai Rassoul listen to his speech during the presidential campaign in Kabul March 5, 2014

    Blog

    The Pernicious Effects of Uncertainty in Afghanistan

    While upcoming elections and sustained Taliban attacks are keeping many Afghans on edge, the greatest long-term threat to Afghanistan right now is the slow, insidious rot of uncertainty that is permeating nearly every facet of Afghan society.

    Mar 12, 2014

  • Research Brief

    Lessons for a Negotiated Settlement in Afghanistan — If History Serves as a Guide

    Historical insurgencies that ended in settlement after a stalemate have generally followed a seven-step path. A master narrative distilled from these cases could help guide and assess the progress toward a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan.

    Feb 28, 2014