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

  • Advisor Training Cell prepares female engagement team for Marine Expeditionary Unit employment, at Camp Pendleton, California

    Commentary

    Women in Special Security Forces: What the U.S. Can Learn from the Afghans

    The contributions of the women in Afghanistan's special security forces demonstrate the unique value that women can bring to special operations forces in socially conservative societies. They are successful in tactical roles and in operations requiring interaction with the community.

    Mar 28, 2016

  • U.S. Special Forces soldiers prepare to leave Haji Aslam village in Khakarez district, Kandahar province, Afghanistan, March 24, 2014

    Report

    A Counterinsurgency Win in Afghanistan?

    The 2015 counterinsurgency (COIN) effort in Afghanistan ranks among the low end of historical COIN winners. The Afghan government and security forces are capable of maintaining the current stalemate with the Taliban. This is the first step on the most promising path to peace: a negotiated settlement.

    Feb 4, 2016

  • Afghan carpet salesmen fold a carpet after showing it to customers at a shop in Kabul

    Report

    Lessons from the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan

    Economic development is likely to remain a key component of U.S. contingency operations. Assessing the activities of the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations in Afghanistan offers insights for similar projects in the future.

    Jan 12, 2016

  • Pakistani Taliban fighters, who were arrested by Afghan border police, stand during a presentation of seized weapons and equipment in Kabul, Afghanistan, January 5, 2016

    Commentary

    Pakistan Holds the Key to Peace in Afghanistan

    Sustained and intensified U.S. pressure on Pakistan offers the only viable path to advancing the Afghan reconciliation process in a way that does not turn Afghanistan into a launching pad for terrorism and extremism.

    Jan 11, 2016

  • Report

    Toppling the Taliban: Air-Ground Operations in Afghanistan, October 2001–June 2002

    This report describes the preparations for Operation Enduring Freedom, Army operations and support activities, coalition issues, and civil-military operations in Afghanistan from October 2001 through June 2002.

    Jan 4, 2016

  • Journal Article

    Contractors on the Battlefield: When and How? Using the US Military's Risk Management Framework to Learn from the Balkans Support Contract

    This study provides insight into the role and value of contractors and challenges facing the government as it seeks to best integrate the skills and capabilities it needs; these skills are increasingly principally resident in the private sector.

    Dec 29, 2015

  • Afghan National Army officers stand at attention at the Kabul Military Training Center, Afghanistan, October 7, 2015

    Commentary

    Improving the U.S. Security Assistance Model

    The United States often approaches security assistance the same way it did in Vietnam, with the same results. A better way would be to focus on politics and shaping the political context.

    Nov 18, 2015

  • Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. President Barack Obama after their joint news conference in Washington March 24, 2015

    Commentary

    Saving Afghanistan: More Than Just Troops

    President Obama's decision to preserve troop strength in Afghanistan is a major step in the right direction. But his commitment to continued support for President Ghani and the national unity government as they pursue critical reforms will determine whether the U.S. troop commitment has any value.

    Nov 5, 2015

  • Buprenorphine, a physician-prescribed tablet, is used to treat opioid addiction

    Essay

    Opioid Rising: How to Stop the World's Growing Heroin Crisis

    Sixty-seven people will die today in America because of heroin or narcotic painkillers, if recent overdose statistics are any guide. RAND research offers strategies to save those lives and thousands more around the world.

    Oct 20, 2015

  • NATO soldiers near a damaged NATO military vehicle at the site of a suicide car bomb blast in Kabul, Afghanistan, October 11, 2015

    Commentary

    More Boots Isn't Enough to Save Afghanistan

    Until there is a viable political strategy for Afghanistan, any modicum of U.S. troops is, at best, playing not to lose. Doing better than that will require promoting three dimensions of political change in Afghanistan and between Kabul and Islamabad.

    Oct 16, 2015

  • 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