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

    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.

    Dec 31, 2009

  • 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

    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

    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

    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

  • Commentary

    Karzai's Second Term a Test for International Community

    Afghan President Hamid Karzai begins his second term with his country on the brink of chaos. To establish control, two major elements of reform are necessary, writes Terrence Kelly.

    Nov 2, 2009

  • Journal Article

    Is Medicinal Opium Production Afghanistan's Answer? Lessons from India and the World Market

    Poverty and corruption are pervasive in Afghanistan and opium production is rampant, especially in the country's most insecure southern regions.

    Nov 1, 2009

  • Commentary

    Keeping Our Allies on Our Side in Afghanistan

    There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, observed Winston Churchill in 1945, and that is fighting without them. It's a truth worth recalling as the Obama administration nears crucial decisions on Afghanistan, write Leo Michel and Robert Hunter.

    Oct 27, 2009

  • Commentary

    Prime Numbers: Doped

    The illicit drug trade is the ultimate value-added chain. As cocaine and heroin make their perilous journeys from the fields of Colombia and Afghanistan to markets in U.S. and European cities, each border crossed and each trafficker involved adds dollars to a price, write Beau Kilmer And Peter Reuter.

    Oct 19, 2009

  • Commentary

    Afghanistan: Echoes of Vietnam

    Now that U.S. involvement in Iraq has begun to require fewer resources, Afghanistan is the new focus of American and European anti-war sentiment, and increasingly Obama's critics are drawing on the analogy of Vietnam, writes James Dobbins.

    Oct 7, 2009

  • Commentary

    How to Tell if We're Winning the Afghan War

    If one year from today, the Taliban controls less territory and the Afghan security forces are more capable, then we will know the United States is winning, writes Nora Bensahel.

    Oct 5, 2009

  • Commentary

    Path to a Pashtun Rebellion in Afghanistan

    The discussion of American troop numbers misunderstands the subtle nuances of fighting a war in areas inhabited by fiercely independent Pashtun tribes, whose culture and traditions are under severe threat from the Taliban, writes Seth Jones.

    Oct 2, 2009

  • Commentary

    How Russia Can and Can't Help Obama

    In hindsight, KGB analysts and Soviet officials were extraordinarily prescient about the perils of Islamist terrorism and the fallout from the Afghan jihad. But could Russia, for all its faults and foibles, be a more valuable counterterrorism partner today, asks Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Aug 26, 2009

  • Commentary

    Going Local: The Key to Afghanistan

    The rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan is now President Barack Obama's war, one he pledged to win during his election campaign. One of the biggest problems, however, is that since late 2001, the United States has crafted its Afghanistan strategy on a fatally flawed assumption, writes Seth Jones.

    Aug 8, 2009