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.

  • The colors are retired during a ceremony marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq in Baghdad on December 15, 2011, photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/U.S. Department of Defense

    Report

    Using U.S. Leverage to Limit Instability in Fragile States

    Jun 15, 2021

    The United States can effectively support governance reforms in postconflict states by seizing on opportunities when partner interests align with U.S. interests. And it can use its leverage, including conditions on military and economic assistance, when interests do not align.

  • 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

    The upcoming U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will remove the most formidable obstacle to total Taliban takeover of the country. China is set to benefit significantly if the Taliban come to power again. It is worth following this dynamic closely in the coming weeks and months.

Explore Afghanistan

  • Blog

    Historic Lynchings and Voter Registration, China in Space, Firefighters' Mental Health: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the link between historic lynchings and voter registration, Afghanistan in the era of fentanyl, supporting firefighters’ mental health, and more.

    Jul 30, 2021

  • Raw opium from a poppy head is seen at a farmer's field on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, April 28, 2015, photo by Parwiz/Reuters

    Report

    Afghanistan in the Era of Fentanyl

    Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are displacing heroin in some major drug markets. What might happen to Afghanistan—the world's largest producer of illegal opium poppy—if demand for its opiates dropped off sharply and permanently?

    Jul 26, 2021

  • The colors are retired during a ceremony marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq in Baghdad on Dec. 15, 2011, photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/U.S. Department of Defense

    Report

    Securing Gains in Fragile States: Using U.S. Leverage in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Beyond

    This report evaluates U.S. options for stabilizing conflict-affected states by incentivizing governance reforms through military and development assistance in the context of U.S. military interventions.

    Jun 15, 2021

  • Blog

    COVID-19 Disinformation, Biden's Address, Leaving Afghanistan: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on Russian and Chinese campaigns to spread malign and subversive information on COVID-19, President Biden's address to Congress, the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and more.

    Apr 30, 2021

  • President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi behind him, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021, photo by Melina Mara/Reuters

    Blog

    Biden's First Address to Congress: Insights from RAND

    President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress, summarizing his administration's early COVID-19 response and outlining plans that aim to loosen the pandemic's year-long grip on a weary nation. The speech reflected the fact that the United States faces policy challenges across a wide range of domains.

    Apr 29, 2021

  • Soldiers in 3rd Platoon, Combat Company, 1-32 Infantry, return from a patrol near the villages of Tsapre and Aybat, Afghanistan, April 1, 2007, photo by Army Spc. Jon H. Arguello/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    To Lose a War

    The result of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a blow to American credibility and a weakening of deterrence and the value of American reassurance elsewhere. It will also result in an increased terrorist threat emanating from the Afghan region, and the distinct possibility of a necessary return there one day under worse conditions.

    Apr 26, 2021

  • Blog

    Game Theory to Help the Vaccine Rollout, Abraham Accords, Telehealth: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how game theory can help the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, potential economic benefits of the Abraham Accords, telemedicine use during the pandemic, and more.

    Mar 19, 2021

  • Delegates attend talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Biden Administration's Afghanistan Challenge

    American efforts to speed up plodding Afghan peace talks seem unlikely to produce results fast enough to facilitate a withdrawal of remaining American and NATO forces by May 1. But the initiative could prove beneficial if it impels the two Afghan sides to at least begin engaging on the principles upon which an expanded government should operate.

    Mar 16, 2021

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Commentary: Securing the Least Bad Outcome: The Options Facing Biden on Afghanistan

    President Biden must decide whether to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan to meet a May 1 deadline. The consequences of the decision will decide the fate of Afghanistan and signal the U.S.' broader strategic intentions.

    Mar 12, 2021

  • U.S. soldiers and airmen enter an Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter at an Afghan National Army combat outpost in Afghanistan on June 23, 2015, photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/U.S. Air Force

    Commentary

    Getting Out of Forever Wars: What Are Biden's Options in Afghanistan?

    U.S. counterterrorism strategy has long been driven by the assumption that security at home depends on fighting terrorists abroad. How will that square with the president's pledge to end forever wars? Is it possible to get out of warfighting without shutting down vital counterterrorist operations?

    Mar 12, 2021

  • Blog

    Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, COVID-19 Variants, Myanmar: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on alternatives in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military, how couples can sleep better during the pandemic, and more.

    Feb 12, 2021

  • Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, signs an agreement with Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar, February 29, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    Commentary

    Afghanistan: Give Peace a Chance

    The timetable set out in the Afghan peace agreement was always unrealistically ambitious. If the Biden administration postpones the May withdrawal of U.S. troops, then this could provide the two Afghan sides more time to address core issues that must be resolved if any settlement is to stick.

    Feb 9, 2021

  • Blog

    Schools and COVID-19, Health Care Resources, Leaving Afghanistan: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on allocating scarce but lifesaving resources during a pandemic, insights from America’s educators, the lopsided telework revolution, and more.

    Nov 20, 2020

  • Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani and Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, special envoy of the foreign minister of Qatar are seen during talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Islamic State in Afghanistan Is Down, but Not Out

    The Afghan Taliban is on the verge of entering into a power-sharing agreement with the Afghan government in a peace deal facilitated by the United States. Washington seems to be holding out hope that the deal will stabilize the country. But the Islamic State Khorasan Province remains a concern. The Islamic State in Afghanistan may be down, but it's not out.

    Sep 14, 2020

  • A man wearing a t-shirt with an image of Zakir Rashid Bhat, the leader of an al Qaeda affiliated militant group in Kashmir, in Dadasara, Kashmir, May 24, 2019, photo by Danish Ismail/Reuters

    Commentary

    Is al Qaida Still a Threat?

    Nineteen years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, does al Qaida still pose a significant threat to U.S. national security? Among researchers, military and intelligence officials, and policymakers who study the group, there is little consensus. An accurate assessment of al Qaida's organizational health must take into account the group's recent and dramatic resurrection.

    Sep 9, 2020

  • Flags of the United States and Russia

    Multimedia

    How Might the U.S. Respond to Russia?

    RAND's Linda Robinson describes several options for how the U.S. might respond if reports that Russia offered bounties to the Taliban for targeting U.S. and coalition troops are confirmed.

    Jul 22, 2020

  • Chinese President Xi Jinping raises his glass and proposes a toast at the end of his speech during the welcome banquet, after the welcome ceremony of leaders attending the Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, April 26, 2019, photo by Nicolas Asfour/Reuters

    Journal Article

    What China Wants in South Asia

    This brief outlines the issues facing different South Asian countries with respect to their relationships with China.

    Jun 12, 2020

  • Trucks wait to cross the Afghanistan-Iran border in Zaranj, Afghanistan, May 10, 2011, photo by Sgt. Mallory VanderSchans/U.S. Marine Corps

    Commentary

    Does the U.S. Deal with the Taliban Present Opportunities for Iran in Afghanistan?

    Iran is watching closely as the United States and the Taliban negotiate an end to America's operations in Afghanistan. If the expected withdrawal of significant U.S. forces destabilizes Afghanistan, how much will Tehran assert its influence over its neighbor to the east?

    Apr 6, 2020