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

  • 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

  • Commercial Book

    In the Graveyard of Empires: America's War in Afghanistan

    Longtime Afghanistan expert Seth G. Jones harnesses important new historical research, thousands of declassified government documents, and interviews with prominent figures to reveal how the siphoning of resources to Iraq left Afghanistan vulnerable to a "war of a thousand cuts." He argues for a radically new approach.

    Jul 13, 2009

  • Commentary

    Mullah Sprung from Gitmo Jail Now Leads Foe in Afghan Campaign

    As Marine Corps forces roll into southern Afghanistan, they face an enemy familiar to US officials — Mullah Zakir, a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner who now leads a reconstituted Taliban, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Jul 5, 2009

  • Commentary

    Countering the Military's Latest Fad: Counterinsurgency

    When Defense Secretary Gates announced that he was dismissing Gen. McKiernan as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan and replacing him with Lt. Gen. McChrystal, he signaled his support for an intellectual movement that in a few short years has come to dominate military thinking in Washington, writes Celeste Ward.

    May 17, 2009

  • Commentary

    The U.S. and India Need to Work Together to Prepare for an Increasingly Chaotic Pakistan

    For every good reason, the Obama Administration is devoting enormous thought to Pakistan. In my judgment, the evolving situation in Pakistan is potentially the most dangerous international situation since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, writes Robert D. Blackwill.

    May 12, 2009

  • Commentary

    The Future of US-India Relations

    The combination of our largely overlapping vital national interests and shared democratic values should produce a bright future for strategic collaboration between New Delhi and Washington in future decades. But in the immediate period before us, our bilateral ties are likely to be more problematical ...

    May 6, 2009

  • Journal Article

    Mental Health Care for Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans

    Despite recent efforts to increase access to appropriate mental health care for veterans returning from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, many challenges remain. These include veterans' reluctance to seek care, insufficient mental health workforce capacity and competency in evidence-based practice, and inadequate systems support for improving care. These broad challenges must be addressed across the Veterans Health Administration, the Department of Defense, and community-based care. Policy reform will require federal leadership to engage health plans, professional organizations, states, and local communities in strategies to improve veterans' access to high-quality services.

    Apr 30, 2009

  • Commentary

    Afghanistan Is NATO's Most Important Challenge

    NATO has a useful future. But it will require bridging the gap in perceptions between the U.S. and most of the European allies about what is important for security and what to do about it. Both sides have to start seeing the other's interests and concerns; and the time to make those commitments is at the NATO summit, writes Robert E. Hunter.

    Apr 3, 2009

  • Testimony

    U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan

    In testimony presented before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia, Seth G. Jones asserts that a key challenge to bringing about the end of the Afghan insurgency lies in implementing the new U.S. strategy.

    Mar 31, 2009

  • Multimedia

    New Strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan (Inside Story, Al Jazeera)

    In an Al Jazeera Inside Story report, RAND expert Cheryl Benard and two other analysts provide insights into the Obama Administration's new strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    Mar 29, 2009

  • Commentary

    Ultimate Exit Strategy

    Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has described the upcoming high-level conference on Afghanistan at The Hague as a "big-tent meeting, with all the parties who have a stake and an interest in Afghanistan." With the situation in that country growing more precarious by the day, those attending this meeting must also think big, write Karl F. Inderfurth and James Dobbins.

    Mar 26, 2009

  • Testimony

    Assessing Combat Exposure and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Troops and Estimating the Costs to Society

    In testimony presented before the House Veterans' Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs, Teri Tanielian discusses the implications from the 2008 RAND study, "Invisible Wounds of War."

    Mar 19, 2009

  • Commentary

    U.S.-NATO Immersion Course

    At a major conference in Munich last month, Vice President Joseph Biden underscored the U.S. determination to rebuild strong and productive relations with its European allies. No issue matters more than Afghanistan, writes Robert E. Hunter.

    Mar 10, 2009