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

  • Report

    Modeling, Simulation, and Operations Analysis in Afghanistan and Iraq: Operational Vignettes, Lessons Learned, and a Survey of Selected Efforts

    RAND conducted an examination of operations analysis, modeling, and simulation support to decisionmaking in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom to illustrate how these tools can support decisionmaking in irregular warfare.

    Feb 10, 2014

  • Pararescuemen secure the area after being lowered from an HH-60 Pave Hawk during a mission in Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Parsing Steve Walt's 'Top 10 Mistakes' About Afghanistan

    Paul Miller takes issue with four of Steve Walt's 10 points in his latest essay that lists President Obama's withdrawal deadline as one of the top 10 biggest mistakes in the war in Afghanistan.

    Feb 10, 2014

  • Vice President Joe Biden and Speaker of the House John Boehner applaud as President Barack Obama finishes his State of the Union speech on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 28, 2014

    Blog

    State of the Union 2014: President Obama Calls for a Year of Action

    Obama called for “a year of action” to achieve his 2014 agenda — from helping people sign up for health insurance, to immigration reform, to completing the mission in Afghanistan. RAND is committed to raising the level of public policy debates and offering evidence-based, actionable solutions.

    Jan 29, 2014

  • Afghan Mujahideen leader Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf talks with his supporters before registering as a candidate for the 2014 Afghan presidential election

    Commentary

    Presidential Candidates Need Multiethnic Consensus

    While many policymakers and analysts focus on who will be the next president of Afghanistan, the more important question may be whether the country's Pashtun, Uzbek, Tajik, Hazara, and other major constituencies will support the 2014 election's outcome.

    Dec 23, 2013

  • A soldier watches the sun rise after spending the night on a night observation post

    Commentary

    Afghanistan After the Drawdown

    It is relatively easy to criticize what's going wrong in Afghanistan. It is much harder to propose a realistic way forward. Seth Jones and Keith Crane in a new report, “Afghanistan After the Drawdown,” suggest a calibrated political and military approach that protects U.S. interests at a realistic level of manpower and investment.

    Dec 6, 2013

  • Soldiers quickly walk to the ramp of the CH-47 Chinook cargo helicopter that will return them to Kandahar Army Air Field.

    Blog

    Seth Jones and Keith Crane: Afghanistan After the Drawdown

    The United States should maintain roughly 8,000–12,000 troops in Afghanistan after 2014 to manage the complex political, security, and economic challenges that will accompany the reduction in forces, say Seth Jones and Keith Crane.

    Nov 27, 2013

  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai attends the last day of the Loya Jirga, in Kabul November 24, 2013

    Commentary

    Just Ignore Karzai and Press On

    As important as a bilateral security agreement is to formalize America's long-term presence in Afghanistan. The current draft doesn't spell out the details of a U.S. military presence after 2014, including the size, composition, and strategy of U.S. forces. Those details are what matter most.

    Nov 26, 2013

  • a security forces operation in Logar province, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    The Missing Option for Afghanistan: A Response to Steve Biddle

    We don't have to settle for a choice between losing and losing expensively, writes Paul Miller. We can choose to sustain our commitment to the Afghans and secure our vital interests in South Asia. There is thus a heavy burden on the president to make a politically risky move against popular opinion.

    Nov 5, 2013

  • Afghan artillerymen in a live-fire exercise are certified and ready to lead

    Blog

    Weighing Afghanistan in 2013 Against the Counterinsurgency Scorecard

    Early 2013 Afghanistan ranks among the historical counterinsurgency winners, but its score is equal to those of the lowest-scoring historical wins. This tenuous position points to several areas in need of improvement.

    Oct 21, 2013

  • Cover of Linda Robinson's book One Hundred Victories

    Blog

    Robinson Book on Special Ops Earns Plaudits

    Linda Robinson's One Hundred Victories shows how special operations forces are evolving to become the go-to force for military operations worldwide. The author, a senior international policy analyst at RAND, draws from her own on-the-ground reporting and interviews with key players inside the national defense community.

    Oct 17, 2013

  • Children climb a fence in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 4, 2013

    Commentary

    Missing a Young Friend in a Changed Kabul

    Friends have gone home or on to other wars. Reports of crime are on the rise in a city once safe, save for the occasional bombing. Afghans still call their government a “mafia” but have stopped asking me what the United States is going to do to fix it, writes Rebecca Zimmerman.

    Oct 15, 2013

  • Report

    Counterinsurgency Scorecard: Afghanistan in Early 2013 Relative to Insurgencies Since World War II

    Previous RAND research on historical insurgencies found that a conflict's overall balance of good and bad factors and practices perfectly discriminated its outcome. A RAND study applied this scorecard approach to Afghanistan in early 2013.

    Oct 7, 2013

  • 'Remnants of an Army' by Elizabeth Butler portraying William Brydon arriving at the gates of Jalalabad as the only survivor of a 16,500 strong evacuation from Kabul in January 1842.

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839–42' by William Dalrymple

    While Dalrymple's account of the British retreat is masterful, his effort to generate lessons for today is at times simplistic, writes Seth Jones. Massive social and political changes in Afghanistan make it thorny to pull many lessons from the first Anglo-Afghan war.

    Jun 26, 2013

  • Ambassador Munter Attends Pashtun Tribal Jirga in Quetta in 2011

    Commentary

    How to Negotiate Like a Pashtun

    Fortunately, the rules by which Afghans (and particularly Pashtuns) forge durable pacts may be difficult to master, but they are quite comprehensible, writes Jonah Blank.

    Jun 4, 2013

  • Nawaz Sharif billboard on Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) Headquarters

    Commentary

    Preventing a Nuclear 'Great Game'

    America's imminent withdrawal from Afghanistan raises the possibility of renewed tension between Pakistan and India. With this month's election of Nawaz Sharif as Pakistan's next prime minister, Islamabad and New Delhi have a fleeting window of opportunity to improve relations.

    May 30, 2013

  • An MQ-1C Gray Eagle unmanned aircraft

    Commentary

    Drones Are Useful, but Not the Solution or the Problem

    The effectiveness of our attacks, particularly by drones, has already decimated the al Qaeda hierarchy, writes Harold Brown. That achievement, together with the negative effect on Muslim publics of drone attacks, suggests that the rate of their usage could be moderated.

    May 16, 2013

  • U.S. special envoy James Dobbins addresses reporters during a flag raising ceremnoy in U.S. embassy in Kabul December 17, 2001

    Blog

    A New Diplomatic Mission for James Dobbins

    President Obama named Ambassador James F. Dobbins, a veteran diplomat and the current director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center, as his special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

    May 7, 2013

  • Afghan Border Police and U.S. Army Soldiers hike to an observation point along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border

    Commentary

    What Went Wrong in Afghanistan? Allowing a Sanctuary in Pakistan

    Ten years after the United States helped overthrow the Taliban regime, it is remarkable that successive U.S. administrations have refused to target the Taliban safe haven in Baluchistan, writes Seth Jones.

    Mar 5, 2013

  • President Barack Obama's State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 12, 2013

    Blog

    The State of the Union 2013

    The 2013 SOTU address will be remembered for its impassioned call for greater gun control just two months after Sandy Hook. But President Obama's second-term agenda can be characterized by its sheer breadth, reflecting the broad range of policy challenges facing the U.S. today.

    Feb 13, 2013

  • Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif meet in Kabul November 30, 2013

    Journal Article

    The U.S. and Afghanistan After 2014

    The year 2014 is a date for transition, not withdrawal, and the international community has pledged to hand over leadership for security to the Afghan government. The war is not over, and American interests in South Asia hang in the balance.

    Feb 1, 2013