The U.S. drone strike that killed al Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan took out one of the last remaining key figures behind the 9/11 terror attacks. But it also highlighted how little the United States got out of its 2020 bargain with the Taliban, and raised questions about the U.S. ability to adequately monitor the developing threat from this quarter going forward.
The shocking events unfolding in Ukraine have reopened old wounds for two RAND researchers. Their personal stories stand as testaments that the traumas inflicted by Russia's war on Ukraine will echo for decades to come.
Vaccine rollouts, an attack on the U.S. Capitol, massive ransomware attacks, the withdrawal from Afghanistan, record numbers of job openings and people quitting, and more. RAND researchers weighed in on all these topics and more.
Pakistan sees the Taliban as a facilitator of discussions with the TTP, as an ally in persuading the TTP to negotiate, and as a guarantor of whatever agreement is reached. And given the Taliban's diplomatic isolation and desperate economic situation, Pakistan can in return assist Afghanistan's new rulers in gaining acceptance and aid.
As a winter crisis looms, the Afghan people need support more than ever. Economic collapse and isolation risk provoking deeper instability, insecurity, and repression. The international community should now look seriously at making a deal with the Taliban to address these risks.
As Western policymakers consider how to deal with Afghan evacuees, including former members of the Afghan security forces, they might consider how to prevent adversaries such as Iran from recruiting Afghan refugees for dangerous and destabilizing operations. Greater attention to these risks may become increasingly important as refugee flows from Afghanistan continue.
America's withdrawal and the Taliban's swift return to power in Afghanistan could be a primary force in shaping the trajectory of the continuing armed struggle with Pakistan's Taliban. It may be time for Islamabad to consider whether to renew efforts aimed at reaching a political settlement.
With NATO, the United States often tries to have it all: U.S. leadership of the alliance and increased allied burden-sharing. But the recent experience in Afghanistan shows how the form U.S. leadership takes can frustrate allies. Prioritizing allied preferences would help to preserve alliance unity and maybe even strengthen burden-sharing.
The United States' war in Afghanistan may be over, but the debate over the legacy of America's longest war has just begun. The U.S. defeat raises many questions. For the future of American defense strategy, one big question perhaps stands out above all: Does the United States still have the grit necessary to fight and win long wars?
Beijing and Islamabad share a long history of cooperation and have much in common on Afghanistan. Both are poised to benefit strategically from the Taliban's success. But the Taliban's resurrection almost certainly will add some stress to an otherwise positive and productive bilateral partnership.
The more than 100,000 civilians recently evacuated from Afghanistan are a small fraction of those who have lost their homes and livelihoods due to war. To avoid worsening the existing humanitarian crisis, the global community should take swift action, including close coordination with regional and national players.