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.

  • An Afghan Local Police recruit receives his certificate of completion on graduation day in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, September 26, 2013, photo by Spc. Jessica Reyna DeBooy/U.S. Army

    Report

    Afghan Government Support for Local Police Program Is Shaky

    Jul 21, 2016

    Established by U.S. and NATO special operations forces, the Afghan Local Police program was designed to become part of the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI). The MOI has made progress in logistics, personnel management, and training activities, but faces serious gaps in its ability to sustain the program.

  • Afghan security forces take position during a gun battle between Taliban and Afghan security forces in Laghman province, Afghanistan, March 1, 2017, photo by Parwiz Parwiz/Reuters

    Commentary

    How Trump Should Manage Afghanistan

    Mar 21, 2017

    While media coverage has focused on Syria and Iraq, Afghanistan remains an important frontline state in the fight against terrorism. The Trump administration should aim to prevent the Taliban from overthrowing the Afghan government, encourage political reconciliation, and pursue terrorists that threaten the United States.

Explore Afghanistan

  • U.S. troops assess the damage to an armored vehicle of the NATO-led military coalition after a suicide attack in Kandahar province, Afghanistan, August 2, 2017

    Commentary

    Privatizing the Military Unlikely to Be a Viable Solution in Afghanistan

    Operational contractors are now an entrenched part of the Department of Defense’s total force and are here to stay. But replacing U.S. military personnel with contractors is not likely to be a militarily effective solution for the Afghanistan problem.

    Aug 14, 2017

  • A U.S. contractor's MI-8 helicopter carries supplies to Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar May 27, 2010.

    Commentary

    Is It a Good Idea to Privatize the War in Afghanistan?

    The CEO of the Blackwater Corporation has suggested that the U.S. should privatize the war in Afghanistan, and the administration is reportedly giving it some thought. It is important not to dismiss this plan categorically, but to consider it on the merits. Doing so highlights the risks of such a plan.

    Aug 4, 2017

  • Report

    Implications of the Security Cooperation Office Transition in Afghanistan for Special Operations Forces: An Abbreviated Report of the Study's Primary Findings

    Presents findings from six historical case studies in which the mission of special operations forces in each of the six countries transitioned over time to include some level of inclusion in the U.S. embassy's Security Cooperation Office.

    Aug 1, 2017

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Afghan counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani shake hands after their meeting in Moscow, Russia, February 7, 2017

    Commentary

    While Americans Fight the Taliban, Putin Is Making Headway in Afghanistan

    The Russians are ramping up political, economic, and propaganda activities to improve their image and reestablish their influence amid pervasive corruption that is impeding progress in Afghanistan.

    Jul 31, 2017

  • U.S. Marines, British and Afghan troops attend a handover ceremony in Helmand province, October 26, 2014

    Commentary

    A Peace 'Surge' to End War in Afghanistan

    President Trump has no easy options in Afghanistan. A surge of U.S. commitment to negotiating a political settlement would not remove all the obstacles, but it is a prerequisite.

    Jul 24, 2017

  • Afghan local police (ALP) sit at the back of a truck near a frontline during a battle with the Taliban at Qalay-i-zal district, in Kunduz province, Afghanistan August 1, 2015

    Commentary

    Trump's Options for Afghanistan: Losing or Not Losing

    The Trump administration faces the choice of losing quickly by withdrawing from Afghanistan; losing slowly by maintaining America's current, inadequate commitment; or not losing by increasing that commitment enough to maintain a stalemate on the battlefield.

    Jun 23, 2017

  • U.S. Army Special Forces members train Iraqi fighters from Hashid Shaabi at Makhmur camp in Iraq, December 11, 2016

    Commentary

    SOF's Evolving Role: Warfare 'By, With, and Through' Local Forces

    U.S. special operations forces are not providing the muscle of the frontline combat troops fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Instead, they are providing meaningful support to the various indigenous forces. If they succeed, this model could become a standard option in the U.S. military playbook.

    May 9, 2017

  • Afghan Special Forces prepare for battle with the Taliban on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, October 10, 2016

    Testimony

    U.S. Policy Toward Afghanistan and the Region

    Afghanistan remains a key frontline state in the struggle against terrorist groups. With that in mind, the United States should make Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan an enduring part of its counterterrorism efforts.

    Apr 27, 2017

  • News Release

    Islamic State Control of People Down 83% in Iraq and 56% in Syria from Peak Levels

    The Islamic State has lost substantial control of territory and people but still conducts and inspires attacks around the world. The U.S. should pursue a light rollback strategy that relies on local forces backed by U.S. special operations forces, intelligence assets, and airpower.

    Apr 20, 2017

  • Iraqi forces advance against Islamic State militants in western Mosul, Iraq, March 6, 2017

    Report

    Rolling Back the Islamic State

    The Islamic State has lost substantial control of territory and people. But the group still conducts and inspires attacks around the world. The United States should pursue a light rollback strategy that relies on local forces backed by U.S. special operations troops, intelligence assets, and airpower.

    Apr 20, 2017

  • Pakistani soldiers at an army post in the Shawal mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, near a known haven for al Qaeda militants, April 29, 2006

    Commentary

    Beware the New Mujahideen: The Threat from Future Jihadist Networks

    Today's terrorist networks will multiply far beyond the wars in Iraq and Syria. When one conflict ends, these fighters often join another. It is critical they be denied safe haven and the ability to train and network in ungoverned territories.

    Mar 14, 2017

  • Afghan National Army soldiers inspect passengers at a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, June 29, 2015, after Islamic State fighters had seized territory from rival Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan for the first time

    Commentary

    The Islamic State-Taliban Rivalry in Afghanistan

    The weakening of the Islamic State is a positive step. But Taliban successes against the group have strengthened the Taliban's power, bolstered its reputation, and complicated U.S. and Afghan government efforts to wind down the Afghan war.

    Nov 28, 2016

  • Supporters of Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah take down a large portrait of Afghan President Hamid Karzai before a gathering in Kabul July 8, 2014

    Commentary

    Book Review: 'A Kingdom of Their Own: The Family Karzai and the Afghan Disaster'

    Foreign observers of Afghanistan tend to think of former President Hamid Karzai's government as a clan of corrupt thugs, led by a feckless, petulant whiner. Joshua Partlow's book tells the story and explores the question of how much the Karzais were responsible for the deterioration of U.S.-Afghan ties.

    Oct 15, 2016

  • News Release

    Humanitarian Relief and Reconstruction Program Helped Improve Economic Conditions and Security in Afghanistan

    The ability of the U.S. military to quickly provide small-scale humanitarian relief and reconstruction services in Afghanistan enhanced the operational effectiveness of U.S. forces there during the counterinsurgency-focused 2010-2013 time frame.

    Oct 13, 2016

  • Key Leader Engagement attendees observe a solar-powered water pump while discussing ongoing projects in Farah province, Afghanistan, September 28, 2013

    Report

    CERP Projects in Afghanistan Proved Effective

    Projects under the Commander's Emergency Response Program in Afghanistan ranged from rehabilitating a local well to hydro dam and reservoir restoration. The U.S. military's ability to provide humanitarian relief and reconstruction services enhanced the operational effectiveness of its forces there.

    Oct 13, 2016

  • Journal Article

    China Ponders Post-2014 Afghanistan: Neither "All In" nor Bystander

    Since 2001, China has warily watched the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and associated footprint in Central Asia.

    Jun 28, 2016

  • ISmoke billows from a building after a Taliban attack in Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan, March 9, 2016

    Blog

    Strategic Reversal in Afghanistan

    A new contingency plan considers what an unraveling of Afghanistan's political and security situation over the next 18 months would mean — and what can be done to prevent it.

    Jun 24, 2016

  • An Afghan National Army soldier keeps watch at a check post in Logar province, Afghanistan, February 16, 2016

    Commentary

    Afghanistan After Mansour

    The death of Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour is unlikely to transform the conflict in Afghanistan or improve the prospects for a deal between Kabul and the Taliban. In the coming months, the U.S. presence in the country will be as important as ever.

    Jun 17, 2016