The Trump administration has reportedly offered to withdraw forces from Afghanistan if the Taliban stops fighting and opens negotiations with the government. If the Taliban agrees to a cease-fire and wider negotiations, it will be an accomplishment to celebrate. But it will be only the first step on a long and difficult road to peace.
To shed light on a wide range of topics that figured in President Trump's second State of the Union address, we've rounded up insights from some of RAND's objective and nonpartisan research, analysis, and expertise.
Departing theaters such as Syria and Afghanistan carries a host of associated risks, challenges and potential benefits. Leaders would be well served to factor into the debate the importance of U.S. intelligence collection capabilities, its connection to U.S. presence overseas and its role in anticipating current and future threats.
Both Washington insiders and the general public may be inspired by Kathleen McCinnis's The Heart of War. The novel prompts readers to think more realistically about the Pentagon and its role in policymaking.
Why is America in Afghanistan? What interests justify its sacrifices? How will the war end? If the United States finds it hard to answer such questions after nearly two decades, the coming years are unlikely to provide clarity. If a campaign has no end, it can have no objective. If it has no objective, it cannot be won.
Parallel ceasefires in Afghanistan by the Afghan government and the Taliban for the end of the holy month of Ramadan brought a short respite from the violence. This was an unprecedented development, but was it an opening for resolution of the conflict?
The Trump administration appears to be following its predecessor in imagining a political endgame in Afghanistan. It is focused on military efforts to try to turn the tide of the conflict, in hopes of negotiating from a stronger position. But if all sides continue to seek military advantage, negotiations will never commence.
The United States has been at war in Afghanistan for over 16 years, at a cost of over $1 trillion. But the Taliban now controls more territory than at any point since the U.S.-led invasion. This should give pause to observers who believe that the United States is, or will soon be, poised to turn the tide in Afghanistan.
Many of ISIS's surviving fighters will seek out new battlefields to continue waging jihad. By coordinating with its allies around the globe, the U.S. could work to help alleviate the conditions that lead states to fail, making them less appealing as sanctuaries where terrorists can rest, rearm, and recuperate.
A realistic approach to dealing with Pakistan does not mean selling out Afghanistan or taking a loss on the substantial U.S. investment in the region. Rather, it is necessary for giving Afghanistan a better shot at a more stable future than the current approach is likely to produce.
The Assad regime's defense against insurgents in Syria's ongoing civil war is being provided by forces imported from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as Lebanon and Iraq. Most of these fighters are being trained and equipped by Iran. Could this network of foreign fighters help Iran establish a greater presence beyond the Middle East?
At first glance the comparison between the French military operations in Mali and America’s involvement in Afghanistan is compelling, and in some important ways, accurate. It also presents some fundamental differences that give reason for optimism in France.
There is no new U.S. policy towards Pakistan and there won't be one soon. As long as the U.S. has troops in neighboring Afghanistan, it will be reliant on Pakistan for logistical support, transit, and Islamabad's influence with both the Taliban and its affiliated Haqqani Network.
In his speech on Afghanistan, President Trump maintained his stance against nation-building. But like President Obama's policy, the refreshed approach hinges on the U.S. developing Afghan government capabilities to fight the Taliban, provide for the country's long-term security, and serve as a counterterrorism partner.