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

  • 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 23, 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

  • 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

  • Dissertation

    Developing Stability: Community-Driven Development and Reconstruction in Conflict-Affected Settings

    Tests the hypothesis that development and reconstruction actors can feasibly implement sound development and reconstruction across a relatively wide spectrum of conflict, but varying levels and natures of violence can affect its delivery.

    Nov 4, 2011

  • U.S. soldiers and Afghan police officers talk with Afghan citizens at Checkpoint 64 near Loy Karez in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, November 2, 2011, photo by Spc. Louis Kernisan/U.S. Army

    Commentary

    Security from the Bottom Up

    If the Afghan government is to have a chance of defeating the Taliban, its national-security forces must successfully leverage the country's many competing factions, village by village, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Oct 7, 2011

  • The sun rises above the mountain ridges of Kunar province overlooking the bunkers of soldiers from the Afghan army at Combat Outpost Pirtle King in Ghaziabad district in eastern Afghanistan, September 24, 2011, photo by Erik De Castro/Reuters

    Commentary

    Don't Overestimate Afghanistan Pessimism

    Multiple polls commissioned by independent news and other organizations consistently reveal an Afghan population that sees improvement in its well-being, has a favorable view of its government and is optimistic about its future, writes James Dobbins.

    Sep 29, 2011

  • A U.S. soldier uses a pair of binoculars to scan an area with a rainbow after a firefight with the Taliban at Outpost Bari Alai in Ghaziabad district in Kunar, Afghanistan, September 15, 2011, photo by Erik de Castro/Reuters

    Commentary

    Is It Time to Withdraw from Afghanistan?

    Without the support of U.S. troops, the Afghan government would likely collapse to Taliban forces, backed by neighboring Pakistan, writes Seth G. Jones.

    Sep 19, 2011

  • Journal Article

    Afghanistan: Guidelines for a Peace Process

    The overarching Western objective in Afghanistan should be to prevent that country from becoming not just a haven for transnational terrorists, but a terrorist ally as well.

    Aug 1, 2011

  • Multimedia

    After bin Laden

    Seth Jones, Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at the RAND Corporation, speaks about the latest developments in Afghanistan following the death of Osama bin Laden.

    Jun 15, 2011

  • Journal Article

    What Are You Prepared to Do? NATO and the Strategic Mismatch Between Ends, Ways, and Means in Afghanistan — and in the Future

    This article examines ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) operations in Afghanistan as a way to get at the strategic disconnects in ends, ways, and means.

    Apr 30, 2011

  • Commentary

    Prison as Indoctrination Center

    The Taliban view incarceration foremost as a means to attract new recruits and enhance the jihadist resolve and ideological purity of their own members, writes Arturo Munoz.

    Apr 26, 2011