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.

  • A Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund hosted reception for a group of ambassadors to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on October 1, 2021, photo by EyePress via Reuters

    Report

    U.S. Policy Toward the Taliban: Engage, Isolate, or Oppose?

    May 26, 2022

    With the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan and a growing humanitarian crisis, the United States faces several policy options. While isolation is the usual response to an unwelcome regime change, engagement offers the only prospect to advance U.S. interests in the country, mainly counterterrorism and humanitarian relief.

  • Afghan nationals enter Iran at the Dowqarun border crossing between Iran and Afghanistan, Razavi Khorasan Province, Iran, August 29, 2021, photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Afghan Refugees Are Being Recruited to Join an Iranian Paramilitary

    Nov 23, 2021

    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.

Explore Afghanistan

  • Blog

    Our New CEO, Algorithmic Bias, Equity in the Workplace: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on what RAND’s new president and CEO envisions for the future, addressing bias in health care algorithms, creating equitable change in the workplace, and more.

    Aug 5, 2022

  • A Taliban fighter stands guard near the site where Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. strike over the weekend, in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 2, 2022, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Commentary

    After the al-Zawahiri Strike, the U.S. May Lack Capabilities in Afghanistan

    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.

    Aug 3, 2022

  • Blog

    Gun Policy, China and Taiwan, Russian Propaganda: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on reducing America's unacceptably high rates of gun violence, what would happen if China “quarantines” Taiwan, and Russia's “firehose of falsehood.”

    May 27, 2022

  • Two hands holding a heart made out of flowers in the colors of Ukraine'a flag, photo by Maryna Petrenko-Shvets/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Reopening Old Wounds: Two Stories, One Lesson

    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.

    Apr 16, 2022

  • Blog

    RAND Commentary Highlights of 2021

    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.

    Dec 21, 2021

  • View of Pakistan and Taliban flags at the Friendship Gate crossing point in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border town of Chaman, Pakistan, August 27, 2021, photo by Saeed Ali Achakzai/Reuters

    Commentary

    Complex Calculations Shape Pakistan-TTP Negotiations

    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.

    Dec 20, 2021

  • An Afghan woman holds her child as she and others wait to receive package being distributed by a Turkish humanitarian aid group in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 15, 2021, photo by Ali Khara/Reuters

    Commentary

    It's Time for the West to Engage with the Taliban

    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.

    Dec 17, 2021

  • Paramilitary soldiers walk past the Pakistan Parliament building in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 10, 2015, photo by Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

    Commentary

    Negotiating with TTP—A Different Perspective

    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.

    Oct 27, 2021

  • U.S. and UK military leaders tour Main Operating Base Price, Helmand Province, Afghanistan, April 7, 2013, photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline/U.S. Marine Corps

    Commentary

    Reconsidering U.S. Decisionmaking Within NATO After the Fall of Kabul

    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.

    Oct 25, 2021

  • Refugee shields herself from rain, photo by Fayaz Aziz/Reuters

    Multimedia

    Afghanistan’s Refugee Crisis: Forty Years in the Making

    RAND senior policy researcher Shelly Culbertson discusses the history and current state of Afghanistan's refugee crisis.

    Oct 13, 2021

  • Blog

    Four-Day School Weeks, Domestic Terrorism, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the trade-offs of a four-day school week, how to counter domestic violent extremism, racial disparities in who is convicted of more-serious speeding charges, and more.

    Oct 8, 2021

  • Paratroopers with the 82nd Airborne Division board a U.S. Air Force C-17 at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 30th, 2021, photo by Master Sgt. Alexander Burnett, 82nd Airborne Public Affairs/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    The Big Unanswered Question of the Afghanistan War

    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?

    Oct 4, 2021

  • Blog

    China-Pakistan Partnership, Media Literacy, Incarcerated Parents: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the China-Pakistan partnership in light of the Taliban's rise to power, media literacy education, parenting from prison, and more.

    Sep 24, 2021

  • Taliban flags are seen on a street in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 16, 2021, photo by West Asia News Agency via Reuters

    Commentary

    China and Pakistan See Eye to Eye on the Taliban—Almost

    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.

    Sep 21, 2021

  • Blog

    Boosting Vaccine Acceptance, Afghanistan's Refugee Crisis, Environmental Racism: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on addressing vaccine hesitancy, preventing an even-bigger humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and how to develop antiracist environmental policies.

    Sep 10, 2021

  • Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during a meeting with Russian Olympic athletes at the Moscow Kremlin in run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympic Games, June 30, 2021, photo by Sergei Bobylev/Reuters

    Journal Article

    Can a Pragmatic Relationship With the Taliban Help Russia Counter Terrorism?

    Neither the United States nor Russia wants to see Afghanistan become a haven for international terrorist groups. For now, Russia is taking a pragmatic approach to the Taliban in that it has a relationship with the group that the United States does not.

    Sep 8, 2021

  • Afghan refugees board buses that will take them to a processing center after arriving at Dulles International Airport in Dulles, Virginia, September 2, 2021, photo by Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

    Commentary

    With the Evacuation Over, Afghanistan Is Left to Contend with a Worsening Refugee Crisis

    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.

    Sep 7, 2021

  • Blog

    U.S. Failure in Afghanistan, Critical Race Theory Bans, Income Inequality: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how early mistakes led to America's failure in Afghanistan, the potential effects of critical race theory bans, an art installation that breaks down RAND data on income inequality, and more.

    Sep 3, 2021