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 Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund hosted reception for a group of ambassadors to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan on October 1, 2021, photo by EyePress via Reuters

    Report

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

    May 26, 2022

    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.

  • Afghan nationals enter Iran at the Dowqarun border crossing between Iran and Afghanistan, Razavi Khorasan Province, Iran, August 29, 2021, photo by Majid Asgaripour/WANA/Reuters

    Commentary

    Afghan Refugees Are Being Recruited to Join an Iranian Paramilitary

    Nov 23, 2021

    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.

Explore Afghanistan

  • A NATO helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, June 29, 2020, photo by Omar Sobhani/Reuters

    Commentary

    Lessons from Afghanistan

    The British invaded Afghanistan multiple times from 1839 to 1919. These wars offer wider context for understanding America's intervention in that same nation—and its ultimate failure.

    Sep 3, 2021

  • Navy Cmdr. Ryan T. Easterday, commanding officer of the guided missile destroyer USS John S. McCain, observes from the bridge wing as the ship sails in the South China Sea, Oct. 20, 2020, photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Markus Castaneda/U.S. Department of Defense

    Commentary

    Reinforcing U.S. Deterrence in the Indo-Pacific After the Fall of Afghanistan

    China and North Korea are seizing on the U.S. departure from Afghanistan to press their own political warfare messages. What can the United States do to mitigate the impact of the Taliban takeover on America's interests in the Indo-Pacific?

    Sep 3, 2021

  • Marines guide a woman and her child during an evacuation from Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 18, 2021, photo by Marine Corps Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Department of Defense

    Commentary

    Afghanistan Was Lost Long Ago

    The United States failed to build a lasting state in Afghanistan. Although the mission was not doomed from the start, early miscalculations and critical mistakes made success unlikely.

    Aug 30, 2021

  • Blog

    Just How Many Lives the Vaccines Have Saved, Afghanistan, Unemployment: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the number of lives saved during the early U.S. vaccination effort, what leaving Afghanistan says about other U.S. commitments, global competition for virtual-reality dominance, and more.

    Aug 27, 2021

  • Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meets with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, political chief of the Taliban, in Tianjin, China, July 28, 2021, photo by Li Ran/Xinhua via Reuters

    Commentary

    Chinese Recognition of the Taliban Is All but Inevitable

    China is likely to recognize and legitimize the new leadership in Afghanistan within the coming weeks or months. Even if China has real concerns about the Taliban's willingness to keep its promises, the potential benefits are simply too great for Beijing to ignore.

    Aug 27, 2021

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin delivers a speech at Patriot Congress and Exhibition Centre in the Moscow Region, Russia, August 23, 2021, photo by Ramil Sitdikov/Kremlin via Reuters

    Commentary

    After Afghanistan, Could Russia Misjudge America?

    Over the years, the United States has been humbled abroad more than once but bounced back. Now, as it withdraws from Afghanistan, might Russia see the United States as defeated and vulnerable to pressure? This could be an error.

    Aug 26, 2021

  • A U.S. Marine escorts Department of State personnel to be processed for evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, August 15, 2021, photo by Sgt. Isaiah Campbell/U.S. Marines via Reuters

    Commentary

    Afghanistan Withdrawal Says Little About U.S. Commitments Elsewhere

    The United States is a nation which sees that it is in its vital interest to deter autocrats from adventurism and challenges to the world order. Drawing lessons from the narrow case of Afghanistan to speak about broad U.S. resolve or credibility comes with an inherent risk that adversaries may choose to ignore at their own peril.

    Aug 25, 2021

  • Blog

    Insights on Afghanistan, Back to School, North Korea: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the collapse in Afghanistan, what parents think about sending kids back to school, insights from game theory on North Korean denuclearization, and more.

    Aug 20, 2021

  • People try to get into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 16, 2021, photo by Stringer/Reuters

    Q&A

    Collapse in Afghanistan: Early Insights from RAND Researchers

    The sudden end to America's longest war came as the Taliban rolled into Kabul and the government collapsed. RAND researchers share their thoughts on how to help displaced Afghans, whether the country could again become a safe haven for terrorists, and the geopolitical implications of the collapse.

    Aug 17, 2021

  • U.S. Army Sgt. Robert Newman watches the sunrise after a patrol mission near Zabul, Afghanistan, March 19, 2009, photo by Staff Sgt. Adam Mancini/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    Applying Machiavellian Discourses to the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

    After 20 years of war without victory in both Afghanistan and Iraq, it is time to derive key lessons from both conflicts to avoid repeating the same mistakes. Niccolò Machiavelli, whose insights on statecraft have endured for five centuries, is a valuable guide in analyzing those lessons.

    Aug 9, 2021

  • Blog

    Historic Lynchings and Voter Registration, China in Space, Firefighters' Mental Health: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on the link between historic lynchings and voter registration, Afghanistan in the era of fentanyl, supporting firefighters’ mental health, and more.

    Jul 30, 2021

  • Raw opium from a poppy head is seen at a farmer's field on the outskirts of Jalalabad, Afghanistan, April 28, 2015, photo by Parwiz/Reuters

    Report

    Afghanistan in the Era of Fentanyl

    Fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are displacing heroin in some major drug markets. What might happen to Afghanistan—the world's largest producer of illegal opium poppy—if demand for its opiates dropped off sharply and permanently?

    Jul 26, 2021

  • Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and other Taliban delegation members attend the Afghan peace conference in Moscow, Russia, March 18, 2021, photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/Pool via Reuters

    Commentary

    China and the Taliban Begin Their Romance

    China is set to benefit significantly from a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. It's worth following this dynamic closely in the coming weeks and months.

    Jul 22, 2021

  • A U.S. Army reenlistment ceremony held at Baghdad's Cross Sabers

    Report

    Securing Gains in Fragile States: Using U.S. Leverage in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Beyond

    This report evaluates U.S. options for stabilizing conflict-affected states by incentivizing governance reforms through military and development assistance in the context of U.S. military interventions.

    Jun 15, 2021

  • The colors are retired during a ceremony marking the end of the U.S. mission in Iraq in Baghdad on December 15, 2011, photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo/U.S. Department of Defense

    Report

    Using U.S. Leverage to Limit Instability in Fragile States

    The United States can effectively support governance reforms in postconflict states by seizing on opportunities when partner interests align with U.S. interests. And it can use its leverage, including conditions on military and economic assistance, when interests do not align.

    Jun 15, 2021

  • Blog

    COVID-19 Disinformation, Biden's Address, Leaving Afghanistan: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on Russian and Chinese campaigns to spread malign and subversive information on COVID-19, President Biden's address to Congress, the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, and more.

    Apr 30, 2021

  • President Joe Biden addresses a joint session of Congress, with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi behind him, Washington, D.C., April 28, 2021, photo by Melina Mara/Reuters

    Blog

    Biden's First Address to Congress: Insights from RAND

    President Joe Biden addressed a joint session of Congress, summarizing his administration's early COVID-19 response and outlining plans that aim to loosen the pandemic's year-long grip on a weary nation. The speech reflected the fact that the United States faces policy challenges across a wide range of domains.

    Apr 29, 2021

  • Soldiers in 3rd Platoon, Combat Company, 1-32 Infantry, return from a patrol near the villages of Tsapre and Aybat, Afghanistan, April 1, 2007, photo by Army Spc. Jon H. Arguello/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    To Lose a War

    The result of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan will be a blow to American credibility and a weakening of deterrence and the value of American reassurance elsewhere. It will also result in an increased terrorist threat emanating from the Afghan region, and the distinct possibility of a necessary return there one day under worse conditions.

    Apr 26, 2021

  • Blog

    Game Theory to Help the Vaccine Rollout, Abraham Accords, Telehealth: RAND Weekly Recap

    This weekly recap focuses on how game theory can help the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, potential economic benefits of the Abraham Accords, telemedicine use during the pandemic, and more.

    Mar 19, 2021

  • Delegates attend talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Biden Administration's Afghanistan Challenge

    American efforts to speed up plodding Afghan peace talks seem unlikely to produce results fast enough to facilitate a withdrawal of remaining American and NATO forces by May 1. But the initiative could prove beneficial if it impels the two Afghan sides to at least begin engaging on the principles upon which an expanded government should operate.

    Mar 16, 2021