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.

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

    Report

    Armies Have a Role to Play in Nation Building

    Oct 24, 2017

    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.

  • Syrian refugees cross into Jordanian territory, near the town of Ruwaished, 149 miles east of Amman, December 5, 2013, photo by Muhammad Hamed/Reuters

    Report

    Stabilizing Eastern Syria After ISIS

    Sep 8, 2020

    Eastern Syrian communities are no longer occupied by ISIS but they are in a fraught political environment where the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Syrian government have both expanded their presence and some ISIS fighters remain. What are the region's most urgent needs and is there a viable strategy to build near-term stability?

Explore Nation Building

  • People walk at a street market in Sanaa, Yemen, February 5, 2021, photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

    Commentary

    Congressional Options to Advance Peace in Yemen

    An enduring peace in Yemen will require addressing Yemen's most immediate needs while working to develop its economic, political, and security institutions. U.S. lawmakers have the tools to help shape this effort and could help end the conflict and bring stability to Yemen.

    Mar 29, 2021

  • Delegates attend talks between Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, September 12, 2020, photo by Ibraheem al Omari/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Biden Administration's Afghanistan Challenge

    American efforts to speed up plodding Afghan peace talks seem unlikely to produce results fast enough to facilitate a withdrawal of remaining American and NATO forces by May 1. But the initiative could prove beneficial if it impels the two Afghan sides to at least begin engaging on the principles upon which an expanded government should operate.

    Mar 16, 2021

  • A pro-government tribal fighter stands at his position in Marib, Yemen, October 2, 2020, photo by Ali Owidha/Reuters

    Commentary

    Pathways to Peace in Yemen: National Reconciliation or a 'Phased' Approach?

    Any pathway to an enduring peace in Yemen could take decades to recover from the economic, political, and social costs of this civil war. A phased approach could require patience from the Yemeni people and a robust and enduring commitment from the international community. But war has brought Yemen to this point, and there are few remaining options.

    Mar 5, 2021

  • Supporters of the Houthi movement take part in a rally marking the anniversary of launching their motto (Sarkha) in which they call for death to America and death to Israel in Sanaa, Yemen, June 28, 2019, photo by Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters

    Report

    Building an Enduring Peace in Yemen

    Peace in Yemen will require a coordinated approach to security and an international body with the influence, mission, and resources to support what will be a decades-long process of reconciliation, reconstruction, and redevelopment. To succeed, this body must be led by Yemenis, giving them a clear voice and stake in shaping their future.

    Feb 22, 2021

  • Children play together at Atmeh camp, near the Turkish border, Syria, June 13, 2020, photo by Khalil Ashawi/Reuters

    Commentary

    The Syrian Forever War Has Created Forever Refugees

    Without a formal peace agreement that commits to safety for returnees and creates a foundation for investment in Syria's demolished infrastructure, Syrians will not go home. They fear returning because of reports of returnees being arrested, imprisoned, and tortured.

    Nov 24, 2020

  • Commercial Book

    Commercial Book

    Institution Building in Weak States: The Primacy of Local Politics

    The international community‘s approach to building state institutions needs its own reform. This innovative book proposes a new strategy, rooted in a rigorous analysis of recent missions.

    Jun 26, 2020

  • Trucks wait to cross the Afghanistan-Iran border in Zaranj, Afghanistan, May 10, 2011, photo by Sgt. Mallory VanderSchans/U.S. Marine Corps

    Commentary

    Does the U.S. Deal with the Taliban Present Opportunities for Iran in Afghanistan?

    Iran is watching closely as the United States and the Taliban negotiate an end to America's operations in Afghanistan. If the expected withdrawal of significant U.S. forces destabilizes Afghanistan, how much will Tehran assert its influence over its neighbor to the east?

    Apr 6, 2020

  • Journal Article

    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

    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

  • Research Brief

    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

  • Report

    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

  • 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

  • Report

    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

  • 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