Scott Smith

Former Director, Afghanistan & Central Asia

Note: This is an archived profile of a former U.S. Institute of Peace expert. The information is current as of the dates of tenure.

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.

Expert In the News

Articles & Analysis from this Expert

June 19, 2015

Afghanistan’s Taliban are trying to defeat the government in this first year following the U.S. military’s withdrawal from combat operations, and their surge in attacks has driven the rate of army and police casualties at least 65 percent higher than last year. Still, a focused strategy can help the government survive, USIP experts say.

December 31, 2014
Scott Smith
May 8, 2014
Shahmahmood Miakhel , Scott Smith
May 29, 2014
Scott Smith


June 29, 2015
Shortly after entering office at the end of 2014, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani embarked on a bold but controversial policy of sustained conciliation toward Pakistan, with the goal of securing greater cooperation in securing a comprehensive peace with the Afghan Taliban and integrating Afghanistan into the regional economies. Pakistan's tepid response to date, however, has left Ghani politically vulnerable, with his opponents attacking his outreach effort.  Time is of the essence. Without meaningful actions soon from Pakistan and robust support from the international community, especially China, the initiative is likely to collapse, with devastating results for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the broader region.
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.

External Publications

  • “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.