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


    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


    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

  • Commentary

    Prison as Indoctrination Center

    The Taliban view incarceration foremost as a means to attract new recruits and enhance the jihadist resolve and ideological purity of their own members, writes Arturo Munoz.

    Apr 26, 2011

  • Commentary

    Your COIN Is No Good Here

    One can legitimately argue for reducing the United States' commitment to the Afghan war, but it makes no sense to denigrate the tactics and techniques best designed to counter an insurgency, writes James Dobbins.

    Oct 26, 2010

  • Commentary

    Psychological Operations by Another Name Are Sweeter

    The Department of Defense has decided to change the name of military psychological operations (PSYOP) and this is a good thing, writes Christopher Paul.

    Jul 29, 2010

  • News Release

    Local Communities in Afghanistan Can Play Crucial Role in Improving Security

    The Afghan government and NATO can improve security in Afghanistan by leveraging traditional policing institutions in rural villages and mobilizing the population against insurgents.

    Jul 26, 2010

  • Commentary

    A Bottom-Up Peace in Afghanistan

    The Afghan government has embarked on a high-stakes gamble: Try to negotiate with the leaders of the various insurgent networks to end the nine-year-old Afghan war. The notion of the Kabul government cutting a deal with the Taliban is fiercely controversial, write Wali Shaaker and John Parachini.

    Jul 15, 2010

  • Commentary

    Why U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan Are So Frustrated

    President Obama's declaration last week that a change in personnel will not mean a change in policy suggests that the administration took only some of the lessons contained in Michael Hastings' Rolling Stone article, writes Celeste Ward Gventer.

    Jun 30, 2010

  • Commentary

    The Afghanistan Clock

    By replacing Gen. Stanley McChrystal with Gen. David Petraeus, U.S. President Barack Obama has treated the most recent symptom of his Afghan malaise—an insubordinate, or at least indiscreet, general. He has not, however, addressed the underlying malady, writes James Dobbins.

    Jun 25, 2010

  • Commentary

    Talking to the Taliban

    President Karzai of Afghanistan wants to talk to the top Taliban leadership, and that's going to be a thorny issue for President Obama. Some U.S. officials would prefer that Mr. Karzai and his government concentrate instead on detaching low-level fighters from the insurgent cause, writes James Dobbins.

    May 12, 2010

  • Journal Article

    Is Medicinal Opium Production Afghanistan's Answer? A Reply to Comments

    The authors respond to comments made in Bhattacharji, Romesh and Kamminga, Jorrit. (2010), A Response to Is Medicinal Opium Production Afghanistan's Answer?: Lessons From India and the World Market, Journal of Drug Policy Analysis, Vol. 3(1).

    May 1, 2010

  • Commentary

    Al Qaeda Tipping Point? Still a Long Way to Go

    We are still too close to the events to discern the long-term trajectory of the campaign against al Qaeda. And almost nine years after 9/11, analysts are still remarkably divided in their assessments of al Qaeda's current situation, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Apr 26, 2010

  • Commentary

    Only a New 'Grand Bargain' on Transatlantic Solidarity Can Meet Deepest Challenges

    NATO's new Strategic Concept will set out ambitious goals and means for the alliance, but it seems likely to paper over the cracks which are beginning to separate U.S. interests and attitudes from those of most of its European allies, writes Robert E. Hunter.

    Apr 23, 2010

  • Commentary

    Dueling Doctrines: Mullen vs. Powell? Or Mullen & Powell vs. Rumsfeld?

    Reflecting changes in the American approach to counterinsurgency, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mullen recently enunciated a new and apparently more restrained doctrine for the use of armed force. But is this really a repudiation of the so-called Powell Doctrine?, asks James Dobbins.

    Mar 17, 2010

  • Commentary

    The Coming Afghanistan Surge—and the Severely Wounded

    As America starts its ninth year at war, more than 32,000 U.S. service members have already been wounded in action in Iraq and about 3,500 in Afghanistan. Will U.S. resolve to strengthen care for wounded Americans be maintained, asks Ralph Masi.

    Jan 15, 2010

  • Journal Article

    Disparate Prevalence Estimates of PTSD Among Service Members Who Served in Iraq and Afghanistan: Possible Explanations

    Combat exposure is the only correlate consistently associated with PTSD.

    Jan 1, 2010

  • Commentary

    Ends, Ways, and Means—The Debate We Still Need on Afghanistan

    When President Obama explained his decision to send 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to support General Stanley McChrystal's new counterinsurgency campaign, he left a key question unanswered: Will this be enough to achieve U.S. strategic ends in Afghanistan? writes David E. Johnson.

    Dec 9, 2009

  • Commentary

    Take the War to Pakistan

    The United States and Pakistan must target Taliban leaders in Baluchistan. There are several ways to do it, and none requires military forces, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Dec 4, 2009

  • Commentary

    A False Promise of 'Counterinsurgency'

    If the additional troops President Obama has ordered sent to Afghanistan are intended to pursue a "population-centric counterinsurgency" campaign, as described in news reports about General McChrystal's thinking, then this decision is regrettable, writes Celeste Ward Gventer.

    Dec 1, 2009

  • Commentary

    Afghanistan: A Marathon, Not a Prize Fight

    President Obama's decision to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan reflects a nation deeply divided on the war. There are compelling arguments on both sides, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Dec 1, 2009

  • Commentary

    When Generals and Ambassadors Feud

    In 2007 in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus and Amb. Crocker set a model for civil-military collaboration: They never let daylight show between their positions. In providing differing advice to Washington over troop levels in Afghanistan, General McChrystal and Ambassador Eikenberry have diverged from this model, writes James Dobbins.

    Nov 13, 2009

  • Commentary

    Our Man in Kabul

    Now that Karzai has been declared the election's winner, the breach with Abdullah—the man most responsible for his original rise to power—could have very dangerous consequences. The last thing Karzai, NATO, and the United States can afford is the emergence of a renewed northern alliance, writes James Dobbins.

    Nov 4, 2009