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.


William Byrd
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. 
William Byrd
December 1, 2014
Mining companies in Afghanistan are wantonly exploiting the country’s mineral resources with little or no taxes and royalties going to the government. Contracting of mines has been susceptible to political influence, there is little accountability and sometimes conflicts with local communities have led to violence and deaths. This Peace Brief examines these problems and offers some recommendations to improve the situation.
William Byrd
September 25, 2014
Opium production continues to increase in Afghanistan, but there are no easy, one-dimensional solutions to this problem. Afghanistan unfortunately will not be able to join the small group of countries that produce licit opium for medicinal purposes. The opium it currently produces is both illegal and high-cost. Trying to introduce licit production runs the risk that large-scale illicit production will continue in parallel. In the long term, it is unlikely that Afghanistan could compete in the global market with lower-cost, more efficient growers of licit opiates.
William Byrd
August 27, 2014
Afghanistan faces a fiscal crisis due in large part to worsening domestic revenue shortfalls. Averting this crisis will require strong leadership from the new Afghan government that will be replacing the Karzai administration. The country’s revenue system and collections need to be improved, corruption reduced, new revenue sources developed and expenditures cut. More international aid also is needed to help stabilize Afghanistan’s budget as the government undertakes these reforms.

Articles & Analysis by this Expert

December 19, 2014
William Byrd

It was yet another big international meeting on Afghanistan, one of a dozen or so high-profile diplomatic extravaganzas at the ministerial or head-of-state level since January 2002. But the meticulous efforts to plan these meetings, which are set months if not years in advance, are sometimes mocked by the capricious unfolding of events.

In the News

February 3, 2015

William A. Byrd is a senior expert at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The views expressed are his own., Scott SmithScott Smith is the director for Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs at the U.S. Institute of Peace. The views expressed ...