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

  • terrorists silhouette

    Commentary

    Generations of Terrorism

    Whatever its eventual outcome, Syria's civil war has already produced thousands of experienced jihadists who will continue to threaten the region for years to come, writes Brian Michael Jenkins.

    Dec 13, 2012

  • U.S. Army Soldiers prepare to board a CH-47 Chinook helicopter on Camp Marmal in Afghanistan, Sept. 9.

    Commentary

    Afghan Drawdown Numbers May Obscure Larger Questions

    The number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan is only one of several important policy choices—and not necessarily the most important one, writes Seth G. Jones. For example: What will the U.S. do about the insurgent sanctuary in Pakistan?

    Nov 28, 2012

  • Police training in northern Afghanistan

    Commentary

    What the Soviets Can Teach Us About Leaving Afghanistan

    Afghanistan will fail if it does not have a central government with enough strength, support, and willpower to maintain control of the bulk of its forces, writes Olga Oliker.

    Oct 18, 2012

  • a U.S. Army Soldier and Afghan National Policemen

    Commentary

    Difficult Questions on Afghanistan and Pakistan

    In Afghanistan, the U.S. military has been fighting the longest war in the nation's history—and many Americans don't understand why. The final presidential debate on Monday affords President Obama and Governor Romney an excellent opportunity to provide answers, writes Jonah Blank.

    Oct 17, 2012

  • Taliban insurgents turning themselves in to Afghan National Security Forces

    Commentary

    Bringing the Taliban to the Table: Long-Term Prospects for the Afghan Peace Talks

    The Afghan government and the Taliban have signaled that the United States would be the most suitable third-party interlocutor and most effective at holding the parties to their word in any agreement. Yet the U.S. must accept that the timeline must be organically determined by the Afghans and not manufactured to meet a predetermined schedule, writes Jason Campbell.

    Oct 11, 2012

  • Afghan girls talking with a U.S. soldier

    Commentary

    The Death of a 'Butterfly' in Kabul

    Like the rest of Afghanistan, these children are so easy to love, but for some so hard. And, like the rest of Afghanistan, they are largely as we have made them, through a combination of kicking and kindness that has bred dependence and resentment, without leaving much of substance, writes Rebecca Zimmerman.

    Sep 13, 2012

  • Secretary of the Army John McHugh meets with members of the Afghan Local Police in the village of Tabin

    Commentary

    Afghan Training Violence: Repairing the Vetting Process Is Key

    While Taliban infiltration poses an obvious threat to the Afghan Local Police program and NATO forces, the greater threat may be in exacerbating political tension between the United States and Afghanistan, writes Seth Jones.

    Sep 6, 2012

  • Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta passes and reviews members of the Indian military during an honors ceremony in Delhi, India

    Commentary

    America and India: Growing Partners in Afghanistan

    A comprehensive Indian military training effort in Afghanistan would balance Pakistan's own involvement in the country, build upon a decade of American achievements in fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and contribute to peace and security in the region, write Larry Hanauer and Peter Chalk.

    Aug 10, 2012

  • Testimony

    Security Force Development in Afghanistan: Learning from Iraq

    Today, as withdrawal looms, the United States and its partners should work with the Afghans to define what sort of police development can be realistically envisioned for Afghanistan, and devote resources and assistance to developing that into the future.

    Jul 18, 2012

  • Gen. David Petraeus, commander of ISAF and commander of USFOR-A, visited Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, December 14, 2010

    Blog

    Building an Afghanistan Security Force: What the US Experience in Iraq (and the Soviet Experience in Afghanistan) Can Teach Us

    The United States and its partners should work with the Afghans to define what sort of police development can be realistically envisioned for Afghanistan, and devote resources and assistance to developing that into the future.

    Jul 18, 2012

  • U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta meets with Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in Delhi, India, June 5, 2012

    Commentary

    Indian Military Assistance Is Needed in Afghanistan

    In the long run, a more robust Indian military role in Afghanistan represents one of the best ways to advance New Delhi's strategic interests while fostering Kabul's continued security and economic development after US and NATO forces begin to withdraw in 2014, write Larry Hanauer and Peter Chalk.

    Jul 12, 2012

  • Secretary of Defense Leon E. Panetta attends the NATO Summit in Chicago, May 21, 2012

    Commentary

    Three Challenges Still Await NATO

    Three challenges still await NATO: containing fallout from France's new policy, re-opening the Pakistan supply lines, and the need for Russian cooperation, writes Christopher S. Chivvis.

    May 24, 2012

  • U.S. President Barack Obama puts his arm on Afghan President Hamid Karzai after they signed the Strategic Partnership Agreement in Kabul, May 2, 2012

    Commentary

    The Next War

    To prepare for the interventions to come in the next decade, the United States must adapt the lessons from its experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and use them to generate a new, more realistic, and feasible doctrine, write Radha Iyengar and Douglas A. Ollivant.

    May 7, 2012

  • News Release

    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, as disenchantment with foreign occupation grew.

    Apr 30, 2012

  • leaflet drop over Iraq

    Report

    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

  • 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

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

    Commentary

    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

    Commentary

    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

  • Research Brief

    Can the Army Deploy More Soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan?

    Assess the demands placed upon the Army by the continuing deployments of soldiers to operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Nov 17, 2011

  • U.S. solider on patrol in Afghanistan

    Commentary

    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