Defense Cooperation


The NATO alliance served its participants well in countering the strategic threat once posed by the Soviet Union, but the rise of other regional powers and coalitions since end of the Cold War has prompted a reevaluation of existing alliances. RAND research has provided policymakers with essential information on how best to forge new defense cooperation agreements and strengthen old alliances to counter emerging security threats.

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    Building Special Operations Partnerships

    Jul 31, 2015

    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.

  • Hashid Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation) allied with Iraqi forces against the Islamic State, preparing to attack Tikrit March 26, 2015, photo by Thaier Al-Sudani/Reuters


    Could U.S.-Iran Cooperation Help Combat ISIL?

    Jun 1, 2015

    Limited tactical cooperation between the United States and Iran may be possible in weakening ISIL even if the two nations don't share long-term interests. U.S. and Iranian military forces are fighting the same enemy in Iraq, and U.S. air power seems to complement Iran's on-the-ground presence.

Explore Security Cooperation

  • Afghan National Army officers stand at attention at the Kabul Military Training Center, Afghanistan, October 7, 2015


    Improving the U.S. Security Assistance Model

    The United States often approaches security assistance the same way it did in Vietnam, with the same results. A better way would be to focus on politics and shaping the political context.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • A French soldier from Operation Barkhane rides in an armoured vehicle in Timbuktu, November 5, 2014


    The French Way of War

    There is a French way of warfare that reflects the French military's lack of resources and its modest sense of what it can achieve. They specialize in carefully apportioned and usually small but lethal operations, often behind the scenes.

    Nov 17, 2015

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to servicemen during a training exercise at the Donguz testing range in Orenburg region, Russia, September 19, 2015


    Is Winter Coming? Or, Our Russia Strategy

    In Washington, and across the globe, many ask if Russian actions represent a new challenge to international order, and, if so, what is the best course of action to respond to it.

    Nov 12, 2015

  • U.S. Marines receive a safety brief before they conduct live-fire drills during Trident Juncture 2015 in Almeria, Spain, October 27, 2015


    Building Interoperability for European Defense

    To make the most out of declining defense budgets, the U.S. needs to engage European forces to build interoperability that would enable joint operations to deter and defeat potential adversaries, even with little advance notice. But building interoperable units has often proved difficult even among the friendliest of nations.

    Nov 9, 2015

  • Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. President Barack Obama after their joint news conference in Washington March 24, 2015


    Saving Afghanistan: More Than Just Troops

    President Obama's decision to preserve troop strength in Afghanistan is a major step in the right direction. But his commitment to continued support for President Ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms will determine whether the U.S. troop commitment has any value.

    Nov 5, 2015

  • Syrian President al-Assad made a surprise visit to Moscow on October 20, 2015, to thank Russian President Putin for launching air strikes against Islamist militants in Syria


    Five Options for the U.S. in Syria

    How should the United States respond to Russia's intervention in Syria's civil war? Here are five options intended to encourage rational thinking based upon realistic presumptions, not media or campaign-driven hype.

    Oct 21, 2015

  • U.S. Army Capt. Kevin Mercer watches an Afghan National Army trainer adjust the sight on an M-16 rifle in Kandahar, Afghanistan, January 23, 2008


    What Works Best When Conducting Security Cooperation?

    U.S. security cooperation aims to help others be better able to deal with problems in their countries and regions. To get the most out of these efforts, it's important to understand when and why security cooperation works, and when and why it doesn't.

    Oct 21, 2015

  • Cameroonian soldiers in Mabass, northern Cameroon, where Boko Haram militants kidnapped 80 people on January 18, 2015


    A Good Move in Cameroon

    President Obama's decision to deploy 300 soldiers to Cameroon to help combat the Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram is welcome news. The U.S. is stepping in at the right time, in the right way, by providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support that will greatly enhance Cameroon's and others' chances.

    Oct 18, 2015

  • NATO soldiers near a damaged NATO military vehicle at the site of a suicide car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 11, 2015


    More Boots Isn't Enough to Save Afghanistan

    Until there is a viable political strategy for Afghanistan, any modicum of U.S. troops is, at best, playing not to lose. Doing better than that will require promoting three dimensions of political change in Afghanistan and between Kabul and Islamabad.

    Oct 16, 2015

  • U.S. soldiers arrive at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 17, 2015


    Keeping U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: RAND Experts React

    Several RAND experts agree that sticking to the plan to remove all troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year would have ignored the reality on the ground and made an unstable situation more so.

    Oct 15, 2015

  • U.S. Army General receives a mountaintop briefing from American and Afghan Special Forces on Camp Moorehead, Afghanistan


    The U.S. Military: Between a Rock and a Repulsive Place

    There is a reasonable argument that the best route to address pedophilia and other human rights violations by Afghan forces is to remain engaged, and to make U.S. support conditioned upon remediation and accountability, as the Leahy law requires.

    Sep 29, 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


    Afghanistan, Choose Your Enemies Wisely

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

    Aug 24, 2015

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


    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

  • U.S. and Spanish Marines signal acknowledgement


    A Building Partner Capacity Assessment Framework: Tracking Inputs, Outputs, Outcomes, Disrupters, and Workarounds

    This report presents a framework intended to help with planning for building partner capacity events, monitoring progress while the effort is in progress, and assessing results.

    Aug 21, 2015

  • Nepalese soldiers unload aid and relief supplies from a UH-1Y Venom in the Kavrepalanchowk District, May 11, 2015


    What Works Best When Building Partner Capacity in Challenging Contexts

    When forced to build partner capacity in challenging contexts, what can the United States do to maximize the prospects for success?

    Aug 21, 2015

  • Tunisian soldiers and police patrol near Algeria's border in Kasserine, Tunisia July 4, 2015 after an Islamist militant attack on a beach hotel that killed 38 foreigners


    Algeria: The Bastion of North Africa

    Algeria could be a key regional partner for the United States and France in security and counterterrorism efforts against Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. It has a clear interest in quelling the threat posed by regional jihadists and it has local knowledge that could be helpful to U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

    Aug 11, 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


    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


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


    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

  • Sunni tribal fighters stand guard near a school used as a shelter for displaced people in the city of Ramadi, April 11, 2015


    The Enemy You Know and the Ally You Don't

    Arming Iraq's Sunni militias to fight the Islamic State may seem like a quick fix, but newly declassified documents suggest it might only add fuel to the fire.

    Jun 23, 2015