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

Afghanistan’s Economic Development Hinges on the Peace Process

Afghanistan’s Economic Development Hinges on the Peace Process

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

By: William Byrd

Breaking out of Afghanistan’s current economic stagnation, rising unemployment, and poverty will only be possible if there is strong, sustained progress toward durable peace and political stability. Lowering security costs and, over time, reducing the extremely high aid dependency is the only way for the country to move toward balancing its budget books.

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

Improving Afghanistan’s Public Finances in 2017–2019: Raising Revenue and Reforming the Budget

Improving Afghanistan’s Public Finances in 2017–2019: Raising Revenue and Reforming the Budget

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

By: William Byrd; Shah Zaman Farahi

The Afghan government has recently embarked on important reforms to the national budget, embodied in the 2018 budget approved by Parliament early this year. This budget sets in motion an envisaged two-year reform process to achieve greater overall transparency, better development programming, and reduced corruption. The third in a series on Afghanistan’s public finances, this report updates revenue performance in 2017 and assesses the new budgetary reforms, how the draft budget fared in Parliament, the outcome, and next steps and prospects for the reforms.

Economics & Environment

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

View All