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.

  • An Afghan Local Police recruit receives his certificate of completion on graduation day in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, September 26, 2013

    Report

    Afghan Government Support for Local Police Program Is Shaky

    Jul 21, 2016

    Established by U.S. and NATO special operations forces, the Afghan Local Police program was designed to become part of the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI). The MOI has made progress in logistics, personnel management, and training activities, but faces serious gaps in its ability to sustain the program.

  • Laurel Miller, senior political scientist at RAND

    Q&A

    A Way Forward in Afghanistan: Q&A with Laurel Miller

    Jun 21, 2018

    As the United States approaches its 17th year of military involvement in Afghanistan, Laurel Miller, a senior foreign policy expert at RAND, describes the current situation and hopes for the future.

Explore Afghanistan

  • Periodical

    RAND Review: July-August 2018

    This issue spotlights RAND's Gun Policy in America initiative and RAND's evaluation of Housing for Health, a Los Angeles County program that has moved some of its most chronically homeless and vulnerable residents into permanent housing.

    Jul 2, 2018

  • Testimony

    The Challenges and the Benefits for U.S. National Security of Providing Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan: Addendum: Responses to Post-Hearing Questions for the Record

    Document submitted June 28, 2018, as an addendum to testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management, on May 9, 2018.

    Jun 29, 2018

  • A Taliban (R) stands as Afghan security forces ride on an army vehicle during a celebration of a ceasefire in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, June 16, 2018

    Commentary

    Afghan Ceasefires Offer Hope for a Peaceful Future

    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?

    Jun 25, 2018

  • Muslim morning prayer. Blue Mosque in Afghanistan.

    Multimedia

    The Challenges and the Benefits for U.S. National Security of Providing Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan

    An overview of testimony by Laurel E. Miller presented before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management on May 9, 2018.

    May 9, 2018

  • U.S. soldiers watch an Afghan soldier sign for the transfer of mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles to Afghan security forces on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, February 14, 2015

    Testimony

    A Path Forward for U.S. Government Spending in Afghanistan

    For more than 16 years, U.S. assistance to Afghanistan has been enormous in scale and complexity. But how effective is U.S. spending when it comes to building a stable democracy in Afghanistan? How can the United States reduce its financial commitment while mitigating risks?

    May 9, 2018

  • U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 13, 2018

    Commentary

    Is America Ready for a Peace Deal in Afghanistan?

    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.

    Apr 27, 2018

  • F-16 Fighting Falcons from the Pakistan Air Force fly to a joint exercise with the air forces of the United States and its allies, Nevada, July 21, 2010

    Report

    Prospects for U.S. and Pakistan Air Power Engagement

    As U.S. military action in Afghanistan stabilizes below its peak levels, the U.S.-Pakistan security relationship will enter a new phase. What is the nature of the relationship between the U.S. Air Force and the Pakistan Air Force, and how can it be strengthened?

    Mar 28, 2018

  • A U.S. Marine with a Marine special operations team assists with security during a construction project for an Afghan Local Police checkpoint in Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 30, 2013

    Commentary

    In Afghanistan, A Protracted Stalemate

    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.

    Feb 26, 2018

  • Residents who returned from evacuation centers walk past a bullet-ridden house believed to have been rented by pro-Islamic State militant group leaders before their attack on the region, in Basak Malutlut district in Marawi City, Philippines, October 29, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Will ISIS Seek to Establish Its Next Safe Haven?

    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.

    Feb 19, 2018

  • Two boys stand near fuel trucks that were set ablaze in the Bolan district of Pakistan's Baluchistan province, December 12, 2011

    Commentary

    The United States and Pakistan: Best Frenemies Forever?

    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.

    Jan 16, 2018

  • Forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad stand in the al-Khafsa area on the western bank of the Euphrates River, Syria, March 9, 2017

    Commentary

    Where Is Assad Getting His Fighters from?

    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?

    Jan 4, 2018

  • Troops from the Malian Armed Forces and French soldiers conduct a joint patrol during the regional anti-insurgent Operation Barkhane in Inaloglog, Mali, October 17, 2017.

    Commentary

    Mali Is France's Afghanistan, but with a Difference

    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.

    Dec 1, 2017

  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi before their meeting in New Delhi, India, October 25, 2017

    Commentary

    Despite Tillerson, U.S. Won't Abandon Pakistan for India

    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.

    Oct 27, 2017

  • An Afghan tribal elder speaks to key leaders with the National Police, Afghan National Army, and Task Force Southwest during a shura at Camp Nolay, Helmand, Afghanistan, May 25, 2017

    Commentary

    President Trump's Recommitment to Nation-Building in Afghanistan

    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.

    Aug 30, 2017

  • Afghanistan's new President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (2nd L) stands next to Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (L) and his deputies as he takes the oath during his inauguration as president in Kabul September 29, 2014

    Commentary

    What Afghanistan Needs to Move Forward: A Political Solution

    Although the U.S. military's role in maintaining stability has been crucial, a real solution needs to consider Afghan politics first. The United States and the international community should push for parliamentary elections to build confidence between the government and the people.

    Aug 24, 2017

  • U.S. President Donald Trump announces his strategy for the war in Afghanistan during an address to the nation from Fort Myer, Virginia, August 21, 2017

    Commentary

    Trump's New Afghanistan Strategy: Governing from the Center?

    The president has embraced a national security establishment strategy for Afghanistan with a veneer that does not alter its essence. The result is likely to disappoint some of his supporters and to be criticized by his opponents, but it will also secure a measure of bipartisan support.

    Aug 22, 2017

  • U.S. troops assess the damage to an armored vehicle of the NATO-led military coalition after a suicide attack in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, August 2, 2017

    Commentary

    Privatizing the Military Unlikely to Be a Viable Solution in Afghanistan

    Operational contractors are now an entrenched part of the Department of Defense’s total force and are here to stay. But replacing U.S. military personnel with contractors is not likely to be a militarily effective solution for the Afghanistan problem.

    Aug 14, 2017

  • A U.S. contractor's MI-8 helicopter carries supplies to Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar May 27, 2010.

    Commentary

    Is It a Good Idea to Privatize the War in Afghanistan?

    The CEO of the Blackwater Corporation has suggested that the U.S. should privatize the war in Afghanistan, and the administration is reportedly giving it some thought. It is important not to dismiss this plan categorically, but to consider it on the merits. Doing so highlights the risks of such a plan.

    Aug 4, 2017

  • Report

    Implications of the Security Cooperation Office Transition in Afghanistan for Special Operations Forces: An Abbreviated Report of the Study's Primary Findings

    Presents findings from six historical case studies in which the mission of special operations forces in each of the six countries transitioned over time to include some level of inclusion in the U.S. embassy's Security Cooperation Office.

    Aug 1, 2017