Dr. 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.

Dr. Byrd 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.

Dr. Byrds' 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 and Humanitarian Crises Turn Dire

Afghanistan’s Economic and Humanitarian Crises Turn Dire

Thursday, October 14, 2021

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

Two months after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, the country is grappling with twin economic and humanitarian crises the response to which has been complicated by international aid cutoffs, the freezing of Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves and sanctions on the militants. USIP’s William Byrd discusses the implications of these crises and the challenges to alleviating them.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience; Economics & Environment

What Can the Taliban Learn From Past Afghan Conquests and Collapses?

What Can the Taliban Learn From Past Afghan Conquests and Collapses?

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

The Taliban’s lightning conquest of Afghanistan caught many people by surprise, perhaps including the Taliban themselves. However, it is not the country’s first episode of an unexpectedly quick military victory and consequent rapid change in regime. Historical examples may provide relevant lessons for the victorious Taliban as they begin to govern the country, including pitfalls to be avoided in their own and the nation’s interest.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Fragility & Resilience

After Taliban Takeover, Can Afghanistan’s Economy Survive?

After Taliban Takeover, Can Afghanistan’s Economy Survive?

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

The Taliban’s unexpectedly rapid and complete victory over the now defunct Islamic Republic of Afghanistan brings with it yet another shock to the long-suffering Afghan people and the country’s very weak economy. Already plagued by insecurity, COVID, corruption, government over-centralization and mismanagement, declining revenues and drought, the Afghan economy will now face a host of challenges in the aftermath of the Taliban’s takeover and the international community cracking down on aid and assistance. As a new Afghan government takes shape, the actions of the Taliban and the response of the international community could greatly exacerbate or modestly ameliorate the current economic and humanitarian crises.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

As U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan, Can Aid Help in Pursuing Peace?

As U.S. Troops Leave Afghanistan, Can Aid Help in Pursuing Peace?

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

As American troops leave Afghanistan, U.S. policymakers are trying to find other tools to advance peace between the Taliban and the Afghan government. One possible instrument is financial aid, which poured into Afghanistan during the 20-year international military presence in the country. There is, however, no guarantee that aid can help shape events. Certainly, a sudden cutoff of security and civilian support would trigger state collapse. Otherwise, though, expectations should be modest: Experience — in Afghanistan and elsewhere — shows aid has limited impacts, especially amid heavy fighting. The best course for now is to keep assistance at least at its current level, particularly for the Afghan budget, retain flexibility and keep funding available to facilitate moves toward peace and address humanitarian emergencies.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Peace Processes

View All