Michael joined USIP after working for 16 years in Congress and nearly 15 years on active duty in the U.S. Navy. He served as senior foreign policy advisor to the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. His was responsible for United States policy and oversight for the African continent, as well as Afghanistan and Pakistan. Prior to his Senate career, Michael served on active duty as an aviator in the United States Navy and spent 22 years of military service in the Navy Reserve.

Michael has effectively woven his operational and policy experience over the last three decades into an uncommon understanding of U.S. and global security and the imperative to work toward human security. Among other efforts, he helped organize and pass legislation establishing within the U.S. government an essential civilian capacity to engage in areas at risk of, involved in, or in transition from conflict. He has closely examined root causes of conflict and obstacles to its resolution. Michael has sought to improve international and domestic understanding and responses to misgovernance, as well as leveraging rare opportunities to transform geopolitical environments. He has also worked to strengthen regional cooperation for security and development in Central and South Asia, as well as across East, Central, and West Africa.

His academic credentials include a bachelor’s in English from Boston College; a master’s in foreign relations from the University of San Diego; a master’s equivalent in security studies from the German Armed Forces Command and General Staff College; and a master’s in law and diplomacy from The Fletcher School at Tufts University. He is conversant in French and German.

Publications By Michael

Will Rising U.S.-Iran Tensions Spark Afghan Proxy War?

Will Rising U.S.-Iran Tensions Spark Afghan Proxy War?

Monday, February 10, 2020

By: Belquis Ahmadi; Barmak Pazhwak; Michael V. Phelan

Rising tensions between the United States and Iran—illustrated and exacerbated by the January 3 assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani—are rippling out beyond the Middle East. Now, American officials are voicing growing concern about Iranian activities in Afghanistan. In recent weeks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Iran is supporting militant groups in the country and seeking to undermine the peace process between the U.S. and the Taliban. A top U.S. general for the region, meanwhile, warned that Iranian actions in Afghanistan pose a risk to the approximately 14,000 American troops deployed there.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

A Year After the Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace Deal, What Is the Impact?

A Year After the Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace Deal, What Is the Impact?

Thursday, August 29, 2019

By: Susan Stigant; Michael V. Phelan

Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace agreement just over a year ago to end two decades of a “frozen war.” The accord, which resolved a seemingly intractable border dispute after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office and accepted an independent commission’s 2002 boundary decision, was greeted with tremendous optimism in both countries and by international observers.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes; Reconciliation

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