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.

  • 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

    May 9, 2018

    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?

Explore Afghanistan

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

    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.

    Sep 28, 2018

  • 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

  • Laurel Miller, senior political scientist at RAND

    Q&A

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

    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.

    Jun 21, 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. 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