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

Five Things to Know About the Afghan Peace Talks

Five Things to Know About the Afghan Peace Talks

Monday, September 14, 2020

By: Vikram J. Singh; Scott Smith; Scott Worden; Belquis Ahmadi; Johnny Walsh

The intra-Afghan negotiations that began on Saturday represent a watershed moment in the war: the first direct, official talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government. These historic talks commenced 19 years and one day after al-Qaida's 9/11 terrorist attacks drew the United States into Afghanistan's civil war. Just getting the Afghan government and the Afghan Taliban to the table is an accomplishment. The main reason the talks materialized is the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February of this year; that agreement delivered a timetable for the eventual withdrawal of foreign troops, which met the Taliban’s years-long precondition for opening talks with the Afghan government.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Afghan Peace Talks: Prisoner Release Paves Way for Direct Negotiations

Afghan Peace Talks: Prisoner Release Paves Way for Direct Negotiations

Thursday, August 13, 2020

By: Dipali Mukhopadhyay; Johnny Walsh; Scott Smith

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday said that his government would release the last batch of Taliban prisoners, ostensibly removing the final hurdle to direct negotiations with the insurgent group. Intra-Afghan negotiations were originally slated for March 10 as part of the U.S.-Taliban deal signed in late February, but were delayed due to disagreements over prisoner releases. The Afghan government and Taliban had committed to releasing 5,000 and 1,000 prisoners respectively, but the final 400 Taliban prisoners had been accused or convicted of major crimes, including murder. Ghani only made the decision to release those prisoners after he called for a consultative assembly, or loya jirga, to advise on the decision. USIP’s Afghanistan experts explain why Ghani convened the loya jirga, what to expect in the early stages of talks, and what role the United States can play.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Is the Afghan Peace Process Back on Track?

Is the Afghan Peace Process Back on Track?

Thursday, May 28, 2020

By: Scott Smith

A three-day cease-fire between the Taliban and Afghan government over Eid al-Fitr expired on Tuesday. This was only the second such cessation of hostilities in the nearly two-decade war. And just two weeks ago, President Ashraf Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah, agreed to share power after a monthslong dispute over the 2019 presidential election. These developments have injected renewed hope that a political solution, negotiated among Afghans, is still possible. USIP’s Scott Smith looks it all means for the peace process, when we can expect the vital intra-Afghan negotiations to begin, and what, if any, impact COVID-19 has had on peace.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Service Delivery in Taliban-Influenced Areas of Afghanistan

Service Delivery in Taliban-Influenced Areas of Afghanistan

Thursday, April 30, 2020

By: Scott Smith

In 2018 and 2019, USIP partnered with the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), a Kabul-based research and policy organization, in an effort to understand how the Taliban provide education, health, and other services to people who live in areas where they are the dominant power. Based on a series of studies conducted by AAN in five districts across the country, the report also examines the Taliban's motivations as a governing entity and their implications for a potential peace settlement.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

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; Global Health; Peace Processes

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