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.

  • People try to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Q&A

    Collapse in Afghanistan: Early Insights from RAND Researchers

    Aug 17, 2021

    The sudden end to America's longest war came as the Taliban rolled into Kabul and the government collapsed. RAND researchers share their thoughts on how to help displaced Afghans, whether the country could again become a safe haven for terrorists, and the geopolitical implications of the collapse.

  • Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other Taliban delegation members attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow, Russia, March 18, 2021, photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via Reuters

    Commentary

    China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

    Jul 22, 2021

    China is set to benefit significantly from a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. It's worth following this dynamic closely in the coming weeks and months.

Explore Afghanistan

  • 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

    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.

    Nov 23, 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

  • A NATO helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 29, 2020, photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

    Commentary

    Lessons from Afghanistan

    The British invaded Afghanistan multiple times from 1839 to 1919. These wars offer wider context for understanding America's intervention in that same nation—and its ultimate failure.

    Sep 3, 2021

  • Navy Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, commanding officer of the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, observes from the bridge wing as the ship sails in the South China Sea, Oct. 20, 2020, photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Markus Castaneda/U.S. Department of Defense

    Commentary

    Reinforcing U.S. Deterrence in the Indo-Pacific After the Fall of Afghanistan

    China and North Korea are seizing on the U.S. departure from Afghanistan to press their own political warfare messages. What can the United States do to mitigate the impact of the Taliban takeover on America's interests in the Indo-Pacific?

    Sep 3, 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

  • Marines guide a woman and her child during an evacuation from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2021, photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Department of Defense

    Commentary

    Afghanistan Was Lost Long Ago

    The United States failed to build a lasting state in Afghanistan. Although the mission was not doomed from the start, early miscalculations and critical mistakes made success unlikely.

    Aug 30, 2021

  • Blog

    Just How Many Lives the Vaccines Have Saved, Afghanistan, Unemployment: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the number of lives saved during the early U.S. vaccination effort, what leaving Afghanistan says about other U.S. commitments, global competition for virtual-reality dominance, and more.

    Aug 27, 2021

  • Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of the Taliban, in Tianjin, China, July 28, 2021, photo by Li Ran/Xinhua via Reuters

    Commentary

    Chinese Recognition of the Taliban Is All but Inevitable

    China is likely to recognize and legitimize the new leadership in Afghanistan within the coming weeks or months. Even if China has real concerns about the Taliban's willingness to keep its promises, the potential benefits are simply too great for Beijing to ignore.

    Aug 27, 2021

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in the Moscow Region, Russia, August 23, 2021, photo by Ramil Sitdikov/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    After Afghanistan, Could Russia Misjudge America?

    Over the years, the United States has been humbled abroad more than once but bounced back. Now, as it withdraws from Afghanistan, might Russia see the United States as defeated and vulnerable to pressure? This could be an error.

    Aug 26, 2021

  • A U.S. Marine escorts Department of State personnel to be processed for evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021, photo by Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marines via Reuters

    Commentary

    Afghanistan Withdrawal Says Little About U.S. Commitments Elsewhere

    The United States is a nation which sees that it is in its vital interest to deter autocrats from adventurism and challenges to the world order. Drawing lessons from the narrow case of Afghanistan to speak about broad U.S. resolve or credibility comes with an inherent risk that adversaries may choose to ignore at their own peril.

    Aug 25, 2021

  • Blog

    Insights on Afghanistan, Back to School, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the collapse in Afghanistan, what parents think about sending kids back to school, insights from game theory on North Korean denuclearization, and more.

    Aug 20, 2021