William Byrd

Senior Expert - Afghanistan

William Byrd is a development economist whose academic background includes a doctorate in economics from Harvard University and a master's degree in East Asian Regional Studies from the same institution. He joined USIP in April 2012 as a senior expert, working on Afghanistan.

He had long experience at the World Bank, where most of his work was country-focused, including China, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He lived for significant lengths of time in all of these countries and speaks Dari and Chinese, with some knowledge of other languages. During 2002-2006, he was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he served as the World Bank’s country manager for Afghanistan and then as economic adviser. His publications include six books on China, other books, and numerous articles, among them several papers on Afghanistan, as well as a number of World Bank reports. Examples include reports on Afghanistan’s economic development, public finance management, economic cooperation in the wider Central Asia region, vulnerabilities to corruption assessments, Afghanistan’s drug industry, and economic incentives and development initiatives to reduce opium production, as well as papers on these topics, security sector reform from a financial and development perspective, and on responding to Afghanistan’s development challenge.

Expert In the News

Articles & Analysis from this Expert

November 20, 2015

Fifty-seven percent of Afghans say their country is heading in the wrong direction, the most pessimistic view recorded in 10 years of the Asia Foundation’s annual survey of Afghans’ attitudes. Unemployment and insecurity are the main causes for a sharp fall this year in public optimism, said Asia Foundation specialists, who discussed the survey results November 19 at USIP.


October 22, 2015
Some say reviving the Afghan economy in a time of intensifying violent conflict and declining external financial inflows will be impossible. Expectations need to be kept modest, and measures must go beyond conventional economic approaches in order to be effective. This brief puts forward some outside-the-box ideas, which, combined with greater government effectiveness and, hopefully, reductions in violent conflict, may help turn the economy around.
June 2, 2015
Insights highlights major questions on the research and practice of peace and conflict, to more than 10,000 subscribers from around the world.
May 15, 2015
For several years, Afghanistan’s economy and public finances have worsened, culminating in a full-blown fiscal crisis in 2014. Political uncertainties, the weakening Afghan economy, corruption in tax collection, stagnant government revenues, and increasing expenditures have contributed to the current fiscal impasse.  In the absence of bold actions by the Afghan government along with proactive international support to turn around the fiscal situation, the fiscal crisis and its insidious effects will continue. 
April 24, 2015
Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election did lead to its first peaceful transfer of power. The process, however, was scarcely democratic. This report explores the election and its internationally mediated unity government outcome. Elections—when they can even be held in fragile and conflict-affected situations—tend to be more destabilizing than stabilizing. The overall lesson, as this report makes clear, points to certain critical needs for such countries: a better understanding of inherent issues, modest expectations, a long-term view, and viable political institutions.