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.

  • Report

    U.S. Policy Toward the Taliban: Engage, Isolate, or Oppose?

    With the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan and a growing humanitarian crisis, the United States faces several policy options. While isolation is the usual response to an unwelcome regime change, engagement offers the only prospect to advance U.S. interests in the country, mainly counterterrorism and humanitarian relief.

    May 26, 2022

  • Commentary

    Afghan Refugees Are Being Recruited to Join an Iranian Paramilitary

    As Western policymakers consider how to deal with Afghan evacuees, including former members of the Afghan security forces, they might consider how to prevent adversaries such as Iran from recruiting Afghan refugees for dangerous and destabilizing operations. Greater attention to these risks may become increasingly important as refugee flows from Afghanistan continue.

    Nov 23, 2021

Explore Afghanistan

  • Research Brief

    Research Brief

    Assessing Military Information Operations in Afghanistan, 2001–2010

    This research brief offers an overview of the effectiveness of U.S. psychological operations in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2010, with particular attention to how well messages and themes were tailored to target audiences.

    Apr 30, 2012

  • leaflet drop over Iraq


    U.S. Military's Efforts to Influence Afghan Population Have Grown Less Effective Over Time

    The efforts of U.S. military information operations and psychological operations in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2010 grew less successful over time. The most notable shortcoming was the inability to counter the Taliban propaganda campaign against U.S. and coalition forces on the theme of civilian casualties.

    Apr 30, 2012

  • U.S. Army Major greets a local resident at Jani Kheyl, Afghanistan


    Should the U.S. Leave Afghanistan Now? History Favors More Time

    The Afghans will have better prospects for defeating their insurgency with continued improvement, of course, and the United States can contribute to that improvement while American forces remain, writes Christopher Paul.

    Apr 3, 2012

  • Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta enters a press conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 14, 2011, photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/U.S. Dept. of Defense


    Negotiating Peace in Afghanistan Without Repeating Vietnam

    The Vietnam negotiations arose from a U.S. initiative, in response to domestic political imperatives and over repeated objections from the Saigon regime. By contrast, the incipient Afghan process has its roots in that society, not ours, writes James Dobbins.

    Jan 13, 2012

  • U.S. solider on patrol in Afghanistan


    Why the Haqqani Network Is the Wrong Target

    In focusing on the Haqqani network—which enjoys little popular support in Afghanistan—the United States is neglecting the more important (and difficult) task of dealing with the Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Nov 6, 2011

  • Dissertation


    Developing Stability: Community-Driven Development and Reconstruction in Conflict-Affected Settings

    Tests the hypothesis that development and reconstruction actors can feasibly implement sound development and reconstruction across a relatively wide spectrum of conflict, but varying levels and natures of violence can affect its delivery.

    Nov 4, 2011

  • U.S. soldiers and Afghan police officers talk with Afghan citizens at Checkpoint 64 near Loy Karez in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, November 2, 2011, photo by Spc. Louis Kernisan/U.S. Army


    Security from the Bottom Up

    If the Afghan government is to have a chance of defeating the Taliban, its national-security forces must successfully leverage the country's many competing factions, village by village, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Oct 7, 2011

  • The sun rises above the mountain ridges of Kunar province overlooking the bunkers of soldiers from the Afghan army at Combat Outpost Pirtle King in Ghaziabad district in eastern Afghanistan, September 24, 2011, photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters


    Don't Overestimate Afghanistan Pessimism

    Multiple polls commissioned by independent news and other organizations consistently reveal an Afghan population that sees improvement in its well-being, has a favorable view of its government and is optimistic about its future, writes James Dobbins.

    Sep 29, 2011

  • A U.S. soldier uses a pair of binoculars to scan an area with a rainbow after a firefight with the Taliban at Outpost Bari Alai in Ghaziabad district in Kunar, Afghanistan, September 15, 2011, photo by Erik de Castro/Reuters


    Is It Time to Withdraw from Afghanistan?

    Without the support of U.S. troops, the Afghan government would likely collapse to Taliban forces, backed by neighboring Pakistan, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Sep 19, 2011

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Afghanistan: Guidelines for a Peace Process

    The overarching Western objective in Afghanistan should be to prevent that country from becoming not just a haven for transnational terrorists, but a terrorist ally as well.

    Aug 1, 2011

  • Commentary


    Obama on Afghanistan: Strategic Drawdown or Rush for the Door?

    Most major plots and attacks, including 9/11 and 7/7, were directly linked to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Travel there has been essential to improving bomb-making skills, receiving strategic and tactical guidance, and undergoing religious indoctrination, writes Seth Jones.

    Jun 23, 2011

  • Multimedia

    After bin Laden

    Seth Jones, Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, speaks about the latest developments in Afghanistan following the death of Osama bin Laden.

    Jun 15, 2011

  • Commentary


    Arab Spring, not Osama bin Laden's Fall, Will Determine Middle East's Fate

    The unanswered question is just what will endure in the Arab world: comparatively peaceful demonstrations leading to regime change, or brutal tactics by authoritarian regimes to crush dissent and cling to power, writes John Parachini.

    May 9, 2011

  • Commentary


    The World after bin Laden

    What's needed is an international conference of all the regional players that have a greater stake in the outcome of the Afghan/Pakistan conflict than does the U.S., writes David Aaron.

    May 3, 2011

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    What Are You Prepared to Do? NATO and the Strategic Mismatch Between Ends, Ways, and Means in Afghanistan — and in the Future

    This article examines ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) operations in Afghanistan as a way to get at the strategic disconnects in ends, ways, and means.

    May 1, 2011

  • 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


    Afghanistan's Reasons for Optimism

    Afghans in general are much more optimistic about their future than we Americans are about ours, write James Dobbins and Craig Charney.

    Apr 1, 2011

  • Commentary


    Beating Back the Taliban

    There is a growing recognition among senior Taliban leaders that they are losing momentum in parts of southern Afghanistan, their longtime stronghold, writes Seth Jones.

    Mar 14, 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