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.

  • 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

    Jun 15, 2021

    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.

  • 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

    Apr 26, 2021

    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.

Explore Afghanistan

  • 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

  • U.S. Army Captain talks with the Nurgaram district sub-governor in Nuristan, Afghanistan

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor' by Jake Tapper

    Tapper spends too much time providing tactical details of battles and too little offering a nuanced, thoughtful explanation of why the U.S. Army struggled so much in Nuristan, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Jan 14, 2013

  • Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, Minister of Defense, participate in the Afghanistan Independence Day celebration held at the Ministry of National Defense in Kabul.

    Commentary

    Moving Beyond Afghanistan's Soviet Legacy

    In 2014, Afghanistan will hold its third presidential election since the fall of the Taliban. If the country can hold reasonably free and fair elections, and defeated candidates can agree to step aside, Afghanistan has a chance of moving beyond its Soviet legacy, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Jan 10, 2013

  • 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

    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