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 U.S. flag is seen at a post in Deh Bala district, Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, after U.S. and Afghan forces cleared Islamic State fighters from the area, July 7, 2018

    Report

    Likely Effects of a Precipitous U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

    Jan 16, 2019

    Winning may not be an option in Afghanistan, but an early departure of U.S. forces without a peace settlement will mean choosing to lose. The result will be the weakening of deterrence and the value of American reassurance elsewhere, an increased terrorist threat, and the possibility of having to return there under worse conditions.

  • Soldiers set off for a foot patrol after disembarking from a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter in Afghanistan, September 4, 2018

    Commentary

    The Risks of Permanent War

    Sep 28, 2018

    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.

Explore Afghanistan

  • 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

  • Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the leader of the Taliban delegation, and Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. envoy for peace in Afghanistan, shake hands after signing an agreement at a ceremony between members of Afghanistan's Taliban and the U.S. in Doha, Qatar, February 29, 2020, photo by Ibrahem Alomari/Reuters

    Commentary

    Peace Hasn't Broken Out in Afghanistan

    The United States and the Taliban signed a preliminary peace deal in February, aimed at ending nearly 19 years of war in Afghanistan and calling for the United States to gradually withdraw its troops. But talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government called for in the agreement and scheduled to begin on March 10 did not happen. What happens now?

    Mar 16, 2020

  • Blog

    Russian Subversion, Truth Decay, Supervised Drug Consumption Sites: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on responding to Russian subversion, how the media can help fight Truth Decay, the first supervised drug consumption site in the United States, artificial intelligence, and more.

    Feb 28, 2020

  • U.S. troops patrol at an Afghan National Army base in Logar province, Afghanistan, August 7, 2018, photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

    Commentary

    The First Step on a Long Path to Peace in Afghanistan

    It has taken 10 years to reach the brink of a first substantial step in toward peace in Afghanistan, and much could still go wrong. Can the Taliban and the Afghan government come together to jointly govern the country?

    Feb 27, 2020

  • U.S. advisors speak with their Afghan National Army counterparts during a routine fly-to-advise mission at Forward Operating Base Altimur, Afghanistan, September 19, 2018, photo by Sean Kimmons/U.S. Army

    Report

    What Best Practices in DDR Could Work for Afghanistan?

    Implementing a peace accord between the Afghan government and the Taliban will take years. Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) are likely to result from rather than lead the process, because disarmament requires a level of trust that can only be built over time. How can the U.S. best advise Afghan authorities on DDR?

    Feb 24, 2020

  • U.S. soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division secure an area during Operation Mountain Sweep near Narizah, southeast of Kabul, Afghanistan, August 22, 2002, photo by Scott Schonauer/Stars & Stripes/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Post's Afghanistan Series

    The Washington Post series “The Afghanistan Papers” charges that “senior U.S. officials failed to tell the truth about the war in Afghanistan throughout the 18-year campaign.” As someone who was both an occasional participant in and frequent critic of the Bush and Obama administrations' Afghan policy deliberations, James Dobbins finds this charge considerably exaggerated.

    Dec 17, 2019

  • A compass pointing toward peace for Afghanistan, photo by XtockImages/Getty Images

    Report

    Envisioning a Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Afghanistan

    Throughout years of attempts to negotiate an end to the war in Afghanistan, the conflict parties articulated only the barest outlines of envisioned outcomes. A new detailed picture of a political settlement includes options for realistic compromises. It is presented in the format of a peace accord to show what the outcome of negotiations could look like.

    Dec 10, 2019

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad during a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, October 20, 2015, photo by Alexei Druzhinin/RIA Novosti/Kremlin/Reuters

    Report

    Understanding Russia's Intervention in Syria

    Russia's military intervention in the Syrian civil war began in 2015. This decision was the result of an extraordinary set of political and military circumstances. What might cause Moscow to take similar actions in other conflicts beyond its immediate neighborhood?

    Oct 31, 2019

  • Blog

    Inmate Suicides, India and Kashmir, Health Care: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap looks at preventing inmate suicides, India and Kashmir, improving health care for veterans, and more.

    Aug 16, 2019

  • Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif speaks during a news conference in Tehran, Iran, August 5, 2019, photo by Nazanin Tabatabaee/WANA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Iran's Cooperation with the Taliban Could Affect Talks on U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

    Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has acknowledged that his country has some level of cooperation with the Taliban. How did Iran's relationship with the Taliban come about? And how might it affect the future of U.S.-Taliban talks?

    Aug 9, 2019

  • Blog

    AI Bias, Opioids, Afghanistan: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the danger of artificial intelligence bias, infants with opioid withdrawal symptoms, peace talks in Afghanistan, and more.

    Mar 15, 2019

  • Soldiers assigned to the 101st Resolute Support Sustainment Brigade load onto a helicopter to head out and execute missions across Afghanistan, Jan. 15, 2019, photo by 1st Lt. Verniccia Ford/U.S. Department of Defense

    Commentary

    Trump's Latest Move on Afghanistan Is a Repeat of Obama's

    So far, both Presidents Obama and Trump have chosen “not to lose” in Afghanistan. As time goes on and the American public's patience grows shorter, this choice becomes more difficult.

    Mar 11, 2019

  • U.S. military advisers from the 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade walk at an Afghan National Army base in Maidan Wardak province, Afghanistan, August 6, 2018, photo by James Mackenzie/Reuters

    Commentary

    Don't Rush Into Afghan Peace

    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.

    Mar 1, 2019

  • Vice President Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi listen as President Donald Trump delivers his second State of the Union address in Washington, February 5, 2019

    Blog

    State of the Union: Insights from RAND

    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.

    Feb 6, 2019

  • Blog

    Taliban, Health Care, Russia: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on U.S.-Taliban peace talks, what single-payer health care really means, comparing threats from Russia and China, and more.

    Feb 1, 2019

  • Syrian residents watch as U.S. troops patrol near Turkish border in Hasakah, Syria, November 4, 2018

    Commentary

    Intelligence Losses Pose Large Risks as U.S. Troops Head Home

    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.

    Jan 24, 2019

  • Blog

    Federal Workers, Afghanistan, Sectarianism: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the critical roles of federal workers, withdrawing from Afghanistan, countering sectarianism in the Middle East, and more.

    Jan 18, 2019

  • Aerial view of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'The Heart of War—Misadventures in the Pentagon'

    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.

    Jan 8, 2019