S. Rebecca Zimmerman

Policy Researcher
Washington Office

Education

M.A. in strategic studies, Johns Hopkins University; B.A. in international relations, Stanford University

Media Resources

This researcher is available for interviews.

To arrange an interview, contact the RAND Office of Media Relations at (310) 451-6913, or email media@rand.org.

More Experts

Overview

Rebecca Zimmerman is a policy researcher at the RAND Corporation. She has over fifteen years of experience in national security and foreign policy, specializing in military institutions and operations overseas. She has spent years working in Afghanistan supporting U.S. efforts to develop the Afghan security sector and its governance, and has conducted research in Mali, the Philippines, and other conflict-affected areas where the U.S. is engaged. She has led teams researching policy for special operations, security cooperation, and military organizational culture. Zimmerman is currently pursuing her doctorate at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies, studying U.S. Army bureaucracy in Afghanistan, and the ways in which military organization has impacted the military's ability to fully implement its doctrine. Her commentary has appeared in the New York Times At War Blog, Newsweek, and on Al Jazeera America, BBC Radio, and CCTV, among others. She holds a B.A., with honors, from Stanford University and an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies.

Honors & Awards

  • Bronze Medal for Merit, RAND

Recent Media Appearances

Interviews: TRT World, Turkey; WHBQ-TV Online; Time Warner Cable News NY1 Online; CCTV America Online; WWL-AM Online; KNX-AM; Voice of America; Al Jazeera America; Al Jazeera - English; Sirius XM Radio

Commentary

  • A U.S. contractor's MI-8 helicopter carries supplies to Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar May 27, 2010.

    Is It a Good Idea to Privatize the War in Afghanistan?

    The CEO of the Blackwater Corporation has suggested that the U.S. should privatize the war in Afghanistan, and the administration is reportedly giving it some thought. It is important not to dismiss this plan categorically, but to consider it on the merits. Doing so highlights the risks of such a plan.

    Aug 4, 2017 Newsweek

  • 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 War on the Rocks

  • Afghan security forces sit on top of a vehicle as they patrol outside of Kunduz city, October 1, 2015

    RAND Experts Q&A on the Fighting in Kunduz

    The Taliban battled its way into the center of Kunduz this week, with media reports saying it seized control of the northern Afghanistan city at least for a time. A trio of RAND experts participated in a Q&A on the situation and its significance.

    Oct 2, 2015 The RAND Blog

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

    Training Foreign Military Forces: Quality vs Quantity

    The American model for large-scale development of partner nation armies is failing. The massive 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 War on the Rocks

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

    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 Los Angeles Times

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

    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 World Affairs Journal

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

    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 Newsweek

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

    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 CNN

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

    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 The RAND Blog

  • 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

    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. News & World Report

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

    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 U.S. News & World Report

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

    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 The Doctrine

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

    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 U.S. News & World Report

  • Afghan children climb onto a fence while playing as they sell tea in Kabul

    Missing a Young Friend in a Changed Kabul

    Friends have gone home or on to other wars. Reports of crime are on the rise in a city once safe, save for the occasional bombing. Afghans still call their government a “mafia” but have stopped asking me what the United States is going to do to fix it, writes Rebecca Zimmerman.

    Oct 15, 2013 NYTimes.com

  • Afghan girls talking with a U.S. soldier

    The Death of a 'Butterfly' in Kabul

    Like the rest of Afghanistan, these children are so easy to love, but for some so hard. And, like the rest of Afghanistan, they are largely as we have made them, through a combination of kicking and kindness that has bred dependence and resentment, without leaving much of substance, writes Rebecca Zimmerman.

    Sep 13, 2012 NYTimes.com

Publications