Scott Smith is a senior technical advisor on Afghanistan 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

Scott Smith on What’s Next in the Afghan Peace Process

Scott Smith on What’s Next in the Afghan Peace Process

Thursday, November 14, 2019

By: Scott Smith

The Afghan government and Taliban announced an agreement on a prisoner exchange this week, but it remains unclear what comes next. With the presidential election still undecided, “The question is if this is the beginning of a new peace strategy on the part of President Ghani, will he be the president a few months from now to carry that strategy forward?” asks USIP’s Scott Smith.

Type: Podcast

Peace Processes

Loya Jirgas and Political Crisis Management in Afghanistan: Drawing on the Bank of Tradition

Loya Jirgas and Political Crisis Management in Afghanistan: Drawing on the Bank of Tradition

Monday, September 30, 2019

By: Scott Smith

Many times over the past century, Afghan political elites have utilized a loya jirga, or grand national assembly, when they have needed to demonstrate national consensus. Based on traditional village jirgas convened to resolve local disputes, loya jirgas have been used to debate and ratify constitutions, endorse the country's position and alliances in times of war, and discuss how and when to engage the Taliban in peace talks. In light of the growing political uncertainty in Afghanistan, this report examines the strengths and weaknesses of the loya jirga as an institution for resolving national crises.

Type: Special Report

Democracy & Governance

Still No Cabinet in Kabul: Who Loses Most?

Still No Cabinet in Kabul: Who Loses Most?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

By: Scott Smith

A slew of news reports coming out of Afghanistan in the past week have picked up two dominant themes: Afghans are frustrated that the new government has still not selected a cabinet, and they now attribute the ongoing economic and security crisis to the fact that no ministers have been appointed to oversee these important ministries.

Type: Blog

Afghans Express Cautious Optimism: Survey Shows Governing is Key

Afghans Express Cautious Optimism: Survey Shows Governing is Key

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

By: Scott Smith

The results of the 10th annual Asia Foundation survey of the Afghan people provides some indication that a government that seeks to govern with greater inclusivity, respect for the rule of law and attention to justice might also help strip the insurgency of any remaining legitimacy and strengthen the government’s negotiating hand as international troops withdraw. This will be the major challenge of Afghanistan’s new, reform-oriented government.

Type: Blog

Economics & Environment

The Future of Afghan Policing

The Future of Afghan Policing

Thursday, May 29, 2014

By: Scott Smith

As President Obama was outlining his plans to leave almost 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan next year to train and support the Afghan army and police, experts in a long-scheduled meeting at USIP were exploring a question that was directly related: how prepared is the Afghan National Police (ANP) to handle the non-military side of Afghanistan’s security equation?

Type: Blog

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