Scott Smith

Director, Afghanistan & Central Asia

Scott Smith is the director of USIP's Afghanistan & Central Asia program. Prior to joining USIP in April 2012, Smith spent 13 years at the United Nations, focusing primarily on Afghanistan and democratization issues. He served as the senior special assistant to the special representative of the secretary-general in Kabul from January 2009 to August 2010. From June 2007 to January 2009, he served as a senior political affairs officer and team leader for Afghanistan in the department of peacekeeping operations. As the desk officer for the 2004 Afghan presidential elections in the U.N.'s Electoral Assistance Division, Smith oversaw the planning, establishment and financing of the U.N. electoral team in Afghanistan. Prior to 2004, Smith held several political affairs officer positions, including as the Afghanistan desk officer from 2002-2003 and as the political adviser to the United Nations Political Office in Bougainville, Papua New Guinea.

He first started working in Afghanistan in 1994-1995 with a French humanitarian organization, Solidarités. Smith is the author of  Afghanistan's Troubled Transition: Politics, Peacekeeping and the 2004 Presidential Election, as well as a number of articles and book chapters. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs.

Smith holds a bachelor of science in foreign service from Georgetown University. He also holds a master's degree in international affairs from Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs.


  • “The bull in Afghanistan’s china shop”, Foreign, March 27, 2013
  • Afghanistan’s Troubled Transition: Peacekeeping, Politics, and the 2004 Presidential Elections, Lunne Rienner, 2010
  • “Lost in Transition: A Political Strategy for Afghanistan,” with Andrew Wilder,, May 22, 2012.
  • “Making Withdrawal Work: A Smaller U.S. Footprint Will Make Afghanistan More Stable,” Foreign Affairs online, 5 August 2011.


March 14, 2014
Afghanistan's April 5 election could create space for political elites to address root causes of the country's continuing crisis, despite the past divergence between Afghan and international views on what elections can accomplish. With more realistic expectations, informed in part by a better understanding of the 2009 elections, the Afghans may be more determined to take this possibly final opportunity to rescue themselves from a political implosion.
December 3, 2013
As the United States and NATO prepare to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan in 2014, the question remains as to what sort of political settlement the Afghanistan government and the Taliban can reach in order to achieve sustainable peace. If all parties are willing to strike a deal, how might the negotiations be structured, and what might the shape of that deal be? Getting It Right in Afghanistan addresses the real drivers of the insurgency and how Afghanistan's neighbors can contribute to peace in the region.

Articles & Analysis by this Expert

December 31, 2014

A slew of news reports coming out of Afghanistan in the past week have picked up two dominant themes: Afghans are frustrated that the new government has still not selected a cabinet, and they now attribute the ongoing economic and security crisis to the fact that no ministers have been appointed to oversee these important ministries.

May 29, 2014
Scott Smith
April 24, 2014
Emily Horin
April 1, 2014

In the News

May 12, 2015

And the mutually friendly tone sounds sincere, said Scott Smith, director for Afghanistan and central Asia at the United States Institute for Peace. “The thaw in relations between the two governments is definitely real,” said Smith. “The question is ...