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
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.
William Byrd
June 5, 2014
The May 27 White House announcement on troop withdrawals from Afghanistan raises serious questions about the staying power of international security funding to support the size of the future Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), as agreed two years ago in Chicago. Concerns also exist about Afghanistan fulfilling its own commitment to fund its security forces. With the ANSF largely a U.S. creation, it would be irresponsible now to turn around and undermine it.
William Byrd
February 4, 2014
USIP’s Bill Byrd, Casey Johnson and Sanaullah Tasal explore the economic implications of the delay in signing the Bilateral Security Agreement between Afghanistan and the U.S.

Articles & Analysis by this Expert

June 14, 2013
William Byrd

Top Afghan ministers and the governors of Kandahar, Helmand and Farah provinces appealed for international support of projects to curb the country’s opium poppy trade over the long haul, amid the risk that cultivation will rise in the short term as most U.S.-led military forces withdraw and foreign aid declines.

In the News

October 28, 2014

However, economist William Byrd, a senior Afghanistan analyst at the United States Institute of Peace, believes that the idea of reducing opium production by spending billions of dollars in assistance has a major flaw. "The export value of opiates is ...