Nation-Building

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After conflicts end, allied nations must undertake military, political, humanitarian, and economic activities to enable states to prosper, but these activities do not always succeed. RAND has examined U.S., United Nations, and European Union nation-building efforts since World War II to determine key principles for their success and draw implications for current and future nation-building investment.

  • An Iraqi flag is seen amid destroyed buildings in the Old City of Mosul, Iraq, July 23, 2017

    Report

    How to Achieve Stability in Iraq After ISIS

    Jul 24, 2017

    After major combat operations against ISIS in Mosul, recovery and stability will require redoubled efforts by Iraqis and the international community. How well humanitarian, security, and other needs are addressed will affect the immediate stabilization of Iraq, including whether civilians can return home.

  • A section of the Israeli barrier cuts beneath the West Bank refugee camp of Shuafat, October 31, 2014

    Project

    A Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Provides the Best Economic Outcomes

    Jun 8, 2015

    The Israeli economy stands to gain more than $120 billion over the next decade in a two-state solution, a possible resolution of the long-standing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians would gain $50 billion, with average per-capita income rising by about 36 percent.

Explore Nation Building

  • Journal Article

    Winning the Peace in Iraq: Don't Give Up on Baghdad's Fragile Democracy

    Following years of war, Iraq's parliamentary government is stable and concerned with governance rather than sectarianism. But the work is not yet complete, and the author stresses diligence and patience before a lasting peace can be achieved.

    Oct 11, 2019

  • Research Brief

    The Battle for Baghdad: Institutionalizing Army Lessons for Urban Combat

    This brief recounts the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, and offers lessons learned and recommendations to enable leaders and soldiers to be better prepared in future conflicts.

    Jul 3, 2019

  • Report

    Africa's Role in Nation-Building: An Examination of African-Led Peace Operations

    What have the peacekeeping missions undertaken by African institutions in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Darfur, the Comoros, Somalia, and the Lake Chad Basin achieved?

    Jun 28, 2019

  • Research Brief

    How African Institutions Help Keep the Peace

    African-led missions are often the peacekeepers of last resort, taking on tasks rejected by others. Two of the six African operations examined helped set a relatively peaceful trajectory. Three of the missions contributed to improving security.

    Jun 28, 2019

  • A protester poses for a portrait during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government in Caracas, February 2, 2019, photo by Carlos Barria/Reuters

    Commentary

    What Should the United States Do About Venezuela?

    If it becomes evident that Maduro isn't about to fall, then the Trump administration should revisit its sanctions and rescind those that weigh most heavily on the Venezuelan people, while targeting and isolating the regime.

    Jun 24, 2019

  • A U.S. Army medical helicopter flies over the Army's 3rd Infantry division's convoy on its push towards Baghdad, Iraq, April 3, 2003, photo by Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

    Report

    Lessons Learned from the Battle for Baghdad

    A review of the U.S. Army's efforts in the Iraq War, especially in Baghdad, offers insights and recommendations that could help leaders avoid the same mistakes in future conflicts. One important lesson is that DoD war plans need to include actions to ensure long-term stability.

    Jun 12, 2019

  • Chess pieces on a board, photo by phaisarn2517/Getty Images

    Commentary

    Yes, the U.S. Could Be Drawn Into Yet Another Big War

    The outcome of the Iraq invasion has done little to alter the factors that have led American leaders and the public into unwise military adventures. Today's big idea of America's mission is not so different from what it was in 2003. Any number of events could spark a new moral imperative to act.

    Apr 19, 2019

  • 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

    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.

    Jan 16, 2019

  • A Taliban (R) stands as Afghan security forces ride on an army vehicle during a celebration of a ceasefire in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, June 16, 2018

    Commentary

    Afghan Ceasefires Offer Hope for a Peaceful Future

    Parallel ceasefires in Afghanistan by the Afghan government and the Taliban for the end of the holy month of Ramadan brought a short respite from the violence. This was an unprecedented development, but was it an opening for resolution of the conflict?

    Jun 25, 2018

  • Laurel Miller, senior political scientist at RAND

    Q&A

    A Way Forward in Afghanistan: Q&A with Laurel Miller

    As the United States approaches its 17th year of military involvement in Afghanistan, Laurel Miller, a senior foreign policy expert at RAND, describes the current situation and hopes for the future.

    Jun 21, 2018

  • Muslim morning prayer. Blue Mosque in Afghanistan.

    Multimedia

    The Challenges and the Benefits for U.S. National Security of Providing Foreign Assistance to Afghanistan

    An overview of testimony by Laurel E. Miller presented before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Federal Spending Oversight and Emergency Management on May 9, 2018.

    May 9, 2018

  • Report

    Managing International Borders: Balancing Security with the Licit Flow of People and Goods

    This Perspective builds on global best practices and lessons learned from other established border management solutions and proposes opportunities to strengthen security while improving the flow of travelers and goods.

    May 9, 2018

  • U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis speaks with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 13, 2018

    Commentary

    Is America Ready for a Peace Deal in Afghanistan?

    The Trump administration appears to be following its predecessor in imagining a political endgame in Afghanistan. It is focused on military efforts to try to turn the tide of the conflict, in hopes of negotiating from a stronger position. But if all sides continue to seek military advantage, negotiations will never commence.

    Apr 27, 2018

  • Workers repair a bridge in Mosul, Iraq, January 28, 2018

    Commentary

    If We Don't Get the Peace Right, Iraq Will Slide Back into the Morass

    Actions taken now by the United States, the Iraqi government, and private parties could determine the war-torn country's future. The message the Sunnis receive in these next six months will determine whether Iraq is on the path to stability.

    Feb 12, 2018

  • Children run along a damaged street as they celebrate the first day of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha at a rebel-held area in Deraa, Syria, September 1, 2017

    Commentary

    How to Help Syrians — Without Helping Assad

    The U.S. and others have a major interest in ending the Syrian civil war, helping the millions of displaced Syrians, and preventing the re-emergence of the Islamic State. But they are naturally reluctant to assist rebuilding a country run by Assad and supported by Russia and Iran. What are their options?

    Nov 3, 2017

  • U.S. Army Soldiers provide security during a mission in Yarmouk, Iraq, July 2007

    Report

    Armies Have a Role to Play in Nation Building

    Events in Iraq and Mali have raised questions about the value of Security Force Assistance and U.S. capacity to strengthen client states' militaries in the face of insurgencies or other threats. History shows that SFA programs could be improved if they focused more on ideology and how an army complements a host country's larger nation-building efforts.

    Oct 24, 2017

  • An Afghan tribal elder speaks to key leaders with the National Police, Afghan National Army, and Task Force Southwest during a shura at Camp Nolay, Helmand, Afghanistan, May 25, 2017

    Commentary

    President Trump's Recommitment to Nation-Building in Afghanistan

    In his speech on Afghanistan, President Trump maintained his stance against nation-building. But like President Obama's policy, the refreshed approach hinges on the U.S. developing Afghan government capabilities to fight the Taliban, provide for the country's long-term security, and serve as a counterterrorism partner.

    Aug 30, 2017

  • Afghanistan's new President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (2nd L) stands next to Afghanistan's Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah (L) and his deputies as he takes the oath during his inauguration as president in Kabul September 29, 2014

    Commentary

    What Afghanistan Needs to Move Forward: A Political Solution

    Although the U.S. military's role in maintaining stability has been crucial, a real solution needs to consider Afghan politics first. The United States and the international community should push for parliamentary elections to build confidence between the government and the people.

    Aug 24, 2017

  • Iraqis celebrate as Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi announces victory over Islamic State in Mosul, in Baghdad, Iraq, July 10, 2017

    Commentary

    Islamic State 2.0

    Many of Iraq's Sunnis are frustrated with the slow pace of reconstruction and a Baghdad government they consider too friendly to Iran. The U.S. needs to shift from supporting military operations in cities such as Mosul to helping the Iraqi government better address political grievances. Failure risks sowing the seeds of ISIS's resurgence.

    Aug 10, 2017

  • An American flag on a fence in the prairie

    Commentary

    American Isolationism Isn't New

    Isolationism is a recurring temptation of American foreign policy. Responding to new and unforeseen challenges, however, the United States has repeatedly resisted that temptation and risen to the demands of global leadership. Is it different today?

    Aug 1, 2017