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.

Publications By William

Reviving Commercial Development of Afghanistan’s Aynak Copper Resource

Reviving Commercial Development of Afghanistan’s Aynak Copper Resource

Thursday, September 21, 2017

By: William Byrd

While other, smaller mineral resources are being rampantly looted, Afghanistan’s large Aynak copper deposit—worth upward $50 billion—has languished unexploited despite being contracted to a Chinese consortium nearly a decade ago. This Peace Brief seeks to understand what went wrong and explores options for breaking out of the current impasse. Resuscitating the development of Aynak, though challenging, would send a powerful signal of beneficial exploitation of Afghanistan’s mineral resources.

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

Idea of 'Hopeless' Afghanistan Misreads U.S. Role

Idea of 'Hopeless' Afghanistan Misreads U.S. Role

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

By: William Byrd

The new U.S. plan for Afghanistan--adding troops, trying to coax the Taliban into a peace process, and supporting government reforms--is being met with skepticism and outright hostility by some who believe the situation there has always been hopeless. But the idea that nothing has worked in Afghanistan, let alone that nothing would have ever worked, is a profound misreading of the past 16 years.

Peace Processes; Democracy & Governance; Global Policy

Industrial-Scale Looting of Afghanistan’s Mineral Resources

Industrial-Scale Looting of Afghanistan’s Mineral Resources

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

By: William Byrd; Javed Noorani

Afghanistan has been plagued by large-scale, open looting of mineral resources, involving significant mining operations, bulk transport of minerals along main roads, and crossing the border at just a few, government-controlled points. This mineral looting, amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars per year, involves widespread corruption, entrenches warlords and their networks, and fuels both local conflicts and the wider insurgency in Afghanistan. The government needs to begin to get a better handle on resource exploitation and to collect more substantial royalties and taxes from ongoing mining activities.

Economics & Environment

Afghanistan’s Rapid Revenue Growth

Afghanistan’s Rapid Revenue Growth

Thursday, September 1, 2016

By: M. Khalid Payenda; William Byrd

Afghanistan’s impressive revenue turnaround in 2015—when total government revenue exceeded expectations with an increase of 22 percent—has been followed by further rapid revenue growth in the first half of 2016. This represents an important achievement in the challenging context of Afghanistan, though the country will remain heavily aid dependent for the foreseeable future, underlining the importance of the upcoming Brussels international donor meeting on Oct. 5. There are concerns, however, ...

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

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