Scott Smith is a senior expert for Afghanistan peace processes at the U.S. Institute of Peace. He was previously the director of USIP's Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs between 2012 and 2016. From 2017 to 2019, he was the director for political affairs at the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. 

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.

Publications By Scott

COVID-19 and Conflict: Afghanistan

COVID-19 and Conflict: Afghanistan

Thursday, April 2, 2020

By: Scott Smith

USIP is closely following the effects of the novel coronavirus around the world and we’re particularly concerned about its effects in fragile states and conflict zones, which are especially vulnerable to the impacts of these kinds of outbreaks. This week, our Scott Smith looks at the potential impact on Afghanistan, how NGOs and religious organizations are working to combat the spread, and what it means for the Afghan peace process.

Type: Blog

Fragility & Resilience; Peace Processes

Coronavirus Poses Yet Another Challenge to the Afghan Peace Process

Coronavirus Poses Yet Another Challenge to the Afghan Peace Process

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

By: Scott Smith

The Afghan peace process has been at a stalemate for weeks, as President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban remain far apart on the logistics of prisoner releases. Intra-Afghan talks that were tentatively scheduled for March 10 have not got off the ground. Meanwhile, the disputed presidential election has led to two rival camps claiming the legitimacy to govern. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s effort this week to bring the parties together failed and led the U.S. to reduce aid to Afghanistan. Amid all this uncertainty, Afghanistan is beginning to see the signs of a coronavirus outbreak, which could devastate the country given its poor health infrastructure and pollution problems. USIP’s Scott Smith explains how the coronavirus could further exacerbates an already complex situation.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

The Latest on U.S.-Taliban Talks: 3 Things You Need to Know

The Latest on U.S.-Taliban Talks: 3 Things You Need to Know

Thursday, February 20, 2020

By: Belquis Ahmadi; Barmak Pazhwak; Scott Smith

The U.S. and Taliban have reportedly agreed to a deal to reduce violence, which could ultimately lead to an end to the war in Afghanistan. USIP’s Afghanistan experts explain how the deal could be an important step to sustainable peace, what subsequent intra-Afghan negotiations would focus on and what the agreement means for Afghan women.

Type: Blog

Peace Processes

U.S.-Taliban Deal: The Beginning of the End of America’s Longest War?

U.S.-Taliban Deal: The Beginning of the End of America’s Longest War?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

By: Scott Smith

American officials announced on Friday that the United States and the Taliban agreed to a seven-day “reduction of violence” that, if adhered to, would be followed by a signed agreement. The deal would pave the way for intra-Afghan talks and a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops. USIP’s Scott Smith examines the U.S.-Taliban deal and what comes next.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

What ‘The Afghanistan Papers’ Got Wrong

What ‘The Afghanistan Papers’ Got Wrong

Thursday, December 19, 2019

By: Scott Smith

The Washington Post last week published a series, “The Afghanistan Papers,” that made the case that U.S. officials consistently lied about the prospects for success in Afghanistan and deliberately misled the public. As someone with an intimate knowledge of the effort described in the reporting, there is a recurring line I find particularly problematic: that officials hid “unmistakable evidence the war had become unwinnable.” That was not the problem. The problem was that for so long many officials believed that the war was winnable.

Type: Blog

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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