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 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

    Report

    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

    Commentary

    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

  • U.S. soldiers arrive at the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, May 17, 2015

    Commentary

    Keeping U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: RAND Experts React

    Several RAND experts agree that sticking to the plan to remove all troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year would have ignored the reality on the ground and made an unstable situation more so.

    Oct 15, 2015

  • Two Indian men working in a textile shop

    Report

    Taking Stock of Employment Interventions in South Asia

    While the number has declined over recent decades, estimates of global poverty remain high. Employment is crucial to lift people out of poverty. A review of the most prominent employment interventions in South Asia could provide guidance for future efforts to increase employment.

    Oct 14, 2015

  • Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, September 29, 2015

    Commentary

    The Fall of Kunduz and What It Means for the Future of Afghanistan

    After the fall of Kunduz, Afghan officials and their coalition partners need to ask some hard questions about where their efforts have gone wrong and what can be done to recover.

    Oct 7, 2015

  • Afghan security forces sit on top of a vehicle as they patrol outside of Kunduz city, October 1, 2015

    Q&A

    RAND Experts Q&A on the Fighting in Kunduz

    The Taliban has battled its way into the center of Kunduz, with media reports saying it seized control of the northern Afghanistan city at least for a time. A trio of RAND experts offer insights on the situation and its significance.

    Oct 2, 2015

  • U.S. Army General receives a mountaintop briefing from American and Afghan Special Forces on Camp Moorehead, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    The U.S. Military: Between a Rock and a Repulsive Place

    There is a reasonable argument that the best route to address pedophilia and other human rights violations by Afghan forces is to remain engaged, and to make U.S. support conditioned upon remediation and accountability, as the Leahy law requires.

    Sep 29, 2015

  • A Syrian refugee carries his sleeping daughter as they walk toward Greece's border with Macedonia, September 14, 2015

    Commentary

    Putting a Human Face on the Refugee Crisis

    By welcoming and accepting refugees, the West can send their oppressors a message about what it means to be a free democratic society.

    Sep 15, 2015

  • Rebel fighters in Syria prepare a mortar to be launched

    Commentary

    How to Lose a Civil War: Lessons for Afghanistan and Syria

    Recently, both Syria and Afghanistan have seen battles that demonstrate anew the potential risks of seeking to defend exposed positions. Syrian leaders seem to have recognized that there are limits to the amount of territory its military can hold. Afghanistan's leaders would be well advised to come to the same conclusion.

    Sep 10, 2015

  • U.S. Army colonel leads an investigation team to meet with villagers in Tagab, Afghanistan, January 27, 2009

    Report

    An Update on Information Operations in Afghanistan

    As the United States looks to further reduce its military footprint in Afghanistan, the need for harmonized information operations doctrine that supports effective operations in the field — as well as the measures with which to gauge their effectiveness — is even greater.

    Aug 28, 2015

  • Afghan officials in Pakistan August 13, 2015 discussing reviving suspended peace talks with the Afghan Taliban, days after Taliban attacks killed dozens of people in Kabul

    Commentary

    Afghanistan, Choose Your Enemies Wisely

    The Taliban's new leadership may be the last decent opportunity for a political solution to the conflict. Without a solution, the Islamic State could make Afghanistan the next Iraq or Syria.

    Aug 24, 2015

  • Afghan National Army soldiers, advised and assisted by NATO Train, Advise, Assist Command, conduct a fire support mission in Zabul province, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    In Afghanistan, the Glass Is Still Better Seen as Half Full: A Response to Gary Owen

    While things are certainly not “great” in Afghanistan, there are more reasons for hope than many had expected to see by this point in the transition from a large U.S. presence to a greatly reduced one.

    Aug 24, 2015

  • U.S. National Security Adviser Susan Rice visits Camp Commando near Kabul, Afghanistan to discuss the state of Afghan Special Forces with mentors to the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command on Nov. 24, 2013

    Report

    Best Practices for Special Operations Advisory Groups

    Special Operations Advisory Groups are tasked with the responsibility of advising commanders and staff of the Afghan Special Security Forces. In-depth interviews with these personnel address rapport building, pre-deployment training, and continuity of operations.

    Aug 10, 2015

  • Afghan Road Maintenance Team members learn proper weapon firing positions during a combat skills class taught by International Security Assistance Force Special Operations Forces at Forward Operating Base Kutschbach, Afghanistan, Nov. 20, 2010

    Report

    Building Special Operations Partnerships

    Building the capacity of Afghan special operations forces (SOF) is a key goal of the U.S. and its coalition partners. An analysis of partnering practices from case studies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Colombia helps identify best practices to benefit the development of Afghan SOF, as well as partnerships beyond Afghanistan.

    Jul 31, 2015

  • A U.S. Army sergeant assists Iraqi army soldiers as they practice Military Operations in Urban Terrain procedures at Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

    Commentary

    Training Foreign Military Forces: Quality vs Quantity

    The American model for large-scale development of partner nation armies is failing. The push for numbers and the attendant dilution of training is at odds with building a cohesive army with the will to stand and fight, predicated upon an unproven assumption that a “large footprint” is itself a decisive strategy.

    Jul 15, 2015

  • A contractor captures biological data of a local man in the Laghman province of Afghanistan, December 14, 2014

    Commentary

    A Frontline Civilian's Invisible Wounds of War

    For frontline civilians, daily life built around war often involves waking up on a remote base and working side by side with soldiers in hazardous places. They often don't get the care and support that they need, whether in an area of crisis and instability, or when they return home.

    Jul 6, 2015

  • A checkpoint in Helmand province, Afghanistan, on March 10, 2012

    Commentary

    Afghanistan After the Drawdown

    If neither victory nor a political settlement are likely in the short term, and if complete withdrawal is unpalatable, then the United States must ensure that its support of Afghanistan remains politically sustainable.

    Jul 6, 2015

  • A U.S. Army crew chief scans his sector from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter in Afghanistan, May 8, 2015

    Commentary

    Understanding the U.S. Military's Morale Crisis

    The military's discontent may stem from dissonance between the commitment to, and pride in, the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan and the knowledge that these sacrifices have not yielded the desired results. Those wars arguably have prompted a crisis of confidence within the military itself.

    Jun 29, 2015

  • Afghan children gather raw opium in a poppy field on the outskirts of Jalalabad, April 28, 2015

    Report

    Reducing Opium Poppy Cultivation in Southern Afghanistan

    What's driving opium poppy cultivation in southern Afghanistan? And how might rural development, eradication, and other programs affect farmers' decisions to cultivate?

    Jun 17, 2015

  • An Afghan border policeman escorts a detained suspected Taliban fighter near Walli Was in Paktika province near the border with Pakistan November 5, 2012

    Commentary

    Expanding the Caliphate

    ISIS in South Asia, which it calls the Islamic State of Khorasan, is larger than most recognize, boasting between several hundred and several thousand fighters. But for now, it is closer to a loose affiliate than a direct arm of the organization.

    Jun 12, 2015

  • The Midnight Mission shelter on skid row before a Veterans Day observance for homeless veterans in Los Angeles, California, November 11, 2013

    Commentary

    Veterans Battle Mental Health Issues After Iraq and Afghanistan

    Researchers have made great progress capturing the consequences of coping with injuries sustained in the theater of war, but the emerging picture is shadowed in grays. A series of recent findings presents a bleak portrait of the cost of modern war to service members, their families, and their health care providers.

    Jun 4, 2015

  • Journal Article

    Determining U.S. Commitments in Afghanistan

    As the Obama administration's tenure winds down and the United States withdraws nearly all of its troops from Afghanistan, debates about the nature and scale of future U.S. involvement in Afghanistan continue.

    May 21, 2015