The congressionally mandated Afghanistan Study Group (ASG) has been charged with identifying policy recommendations that “consider the implications of a peace settlement, or the failure to reach a settlement, on U.S. policy, resources, and commitments in Afghanistan.” The ASG will submit a document containing forward-looking recommendations to Congress, the administration, and the public in early 2021.

The ASG is a 15-member bipartisan group that is co-chaired by Kelly Ayotte, former U.S. senator (R-NH); Joseph Dunford, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Nancy Lindborg, former USIP president and CEO. Its members bring a diversity of strategic and practical knowledge including economic, military, diplomatic, social, and geopolitical expertise, as well as experience across large and complex organizations and processes.

A senior advisors group has also been appointed by the ASG co-chairs. The senior advisors offer deep subject-matter expertise spanning a range of specialties. They will provide insights and analysis on topics being addressed by the ASG and will present their findings to the study group members on specific issues. The ASG will also consult with key external stakeholders, including allies, regional partners, multilateral institutions, and civil society and community groups, as well as the private sector, and representatives of the administration and Congress, for briefings and discussion.

Leadership

Senator Kelly Ayotte

Senator Kelly A. Ayotte, Co-Chair

Kelly Ayotte represented New Hampshire in the United States Senate from 2011-2016, where she chaired the Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and the Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations.  She also served on the Budget, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and Aging Committees.  Senator Ayotte served as the “Sherpa” for Justice Neil Gorsuch, leading the effort to secure his confirmation to the United States Supreme Court. 

From 2004-2009, Senator Ayotte served as New Hampshire’s first female Attorney General having been appointed to that position by Republican Governor Craig Benson and reappointed twice by Democratic Governor John Lynch. Prior to that, she served as the Deputy Attorney General, Chief of the Homicide Prosecution Unit and as Legal Counsel to Governor Craig Benson. She began her career as a law clerk to the New Hampshire Supreme Court and as an associate at the McLane Middleton law firm.

Senator Ayotte serves on the boards of Blackstone, Boston Properties, Caterpillar, Newscorp, Blink Health and BAE Systems Inc.  She also serves on the advisory boards of Microsoft, Chubb Insurance, and Cirtronics.  She is a Senior Advisor to United Against Nuclear Iran and Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions. She also serves on the non-profit boards of the One Campaign, the International Republican Institute, the McCain Institute, Winning for Women, NH Veteran’s Count and NH Swim with a Mission.

Senator Ayotte co-chairs the Commission on Health Security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  She is a also a member of the Board of Advisors for the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Aspen Institute’s Economic Strategy Group.

Senator Ayotte graduated with honors in 1990 from the Pennsylvania State University and earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1993 from the Villanova University School of Law.  She is a native of New Hampshire and lives in Nashua with her husband, Joe, a retired Air Force combat pilot, and their two children Katherine and Jacob.


General Joseph F. Dunford

General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. (Ret), Co-Chair

General Joe Dunford, Jr. served as the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer.  In this role, he was the principal military advisor to the President, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Council from 2015 to 2019. General Dunford was commissioned in 1977 and served as an infantry officer at all levels, to include commanding the 5th Marine Regiment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.  His experience leading large organizations included serving as the 36th Commandant of the Marine Corps, the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps and Commander of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

General Dunford also served as the Marine Corps Director of Operations, and Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Plans, Policies and Operations. His Joint assignments included duty as the Executive Assistant to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of the Global and Multilateral Affairs Division (J-5), and Vice Director for Operations on the Joint Staff (J-3). A native of Boston, Massachusetts, General Dunford graduated from Saint Michael's College.  He also earned master’s degrees in Government from Georgetown University and in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Semper Fi Fund & America’s Fund which supports our wounded, ill, and injured active duty personnel and veterans from all services.  He is a Senior Fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors for the Lockheed Martin Corporation and Bessemer Securities.  He is a member the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board.


Nancy Lindborg

Ms. Nancy Lindborg, Co-Chair

Nancy Lindborg is President and CEO for The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, a position she assumed in August 2020. She is responsible for the overall management of the Foundation and its grantmaking activities. The Foundation awards over $300 million in grants domestically and internationally to improve the lives of children, families, and communities—and restoring and protecting our planet.

She previously served as the president and CEO of the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) from February 2015 through August 2020. Created by Congress in 1984 as an independent, nonpartisan, federally funded institute to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflict around the world, USIP links research, policy, training and direct action with partners in conflict-affected areas.

Prior to joining USIP, she served as the assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at USAID. From 2010 through 2014, Ms. Lindborg directed the efforts of more than 600 team members in nine offices focused on crisis prevention, response, recovery and transition. She also led response teams for some of the biggest challenges the world was facing at the time, including the crisis in Syria, the droughts in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, the Arab Spring, as well as the Ebola crisis.

Ms. Lindborg has spent most of her career working on issues of transition, democracy and civil society, conflict and humanitarian response. Prior to joining USAID, she was president of Mercy Corps, where she spent 14 years helping to grow the organization into a globally respected organization known for innovative programs in the most challenging environments. She previously lived and worked in Nepal and Central Asia. She was a founding member of the National Committee for North Korea and served as co-chair of the board of the US Global Leadership Coalition.

She holds a B.A. and an M.A. in English literature from Stanford University and an M.A. in public administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


Michael Phelan

Mr. Michael Phelan, Director, USIP Secretariat

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. He was responsible for United States policy 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 concluded 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 degree 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.


Scott Smith

Mr. Scott Smith, Senior Afghanistan Expert and ASG Lead Writer

Scott Smith is a senior expert for Afghanistan peace processes 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.


Andrew Wilder

Dr. Andrew Wilder, Vice President, Asia Programs, USIP 

Andrew Wilder is the vice president of Asia programs. He joined USIP in August 2010 as the director of Afghanistan and Pakistan Programs. Prior to joining the Institute, he served as research director for politics and policy at the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University. Previously, Wilder served as founder and director of Afghanistan's first independent policy research institution, the Kabul-based Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU). This was preceded by more than 10 years managing humanitarian and development programs in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including with Save the Children, International Rescue Committee, and Mercy Corps International.

Wilder is the author of The Pakistani Voter: Electoral Politics and Voting Behaviour in the Punjab (Oxford University Press, 1999), and has written numerous other publications. He has conducted extensive research exploring issues relating to state-building, development and stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Recent research has focused on electoral politics in Afghanistan, and the effectiveness of aid in promoting stabilization objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Wilder holds a bachelor’s degree in foreign service from Georgetown University. He also holds a master’s degree in law and diplomacy and a doctorate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Members:

Senior Advisors

Related Publications

Afghanistan Withdrawal Should Be Based on Conditions, Not Timelines

Afghanistan Withdrawal Should Be Based on Conditions, Not Timelines

Thursday, November 19, 2020

By: Scott Worden

The Taliban’s tactic of running out the clock on the U.S. troop presence may bear fruit after the announcement on Tuesday that U.S. forces will reduce to 2,500 by January 15. The Trump administration successfully created leverage by engaging directly with the Taliban to meet their paramount goal of a U.S. withdrawal in exchange for genuine peace talks and counterterrorism guarantees. This strategy brought about unprecedented negotiations between Afghan government representatives and the Taliban in Doha. A walk down a conditions-based path to peace, long and winding as it may be, had begun.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Constitutional Issues in the Afghan Peace Negotiations: Process and Substance

Constitutional Issues in the Afghan Peace Negotiations: Process and Substance

Friday, November 13, 2020

By: Barnett R. Rubin

The peace negotiations between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban that began in September in Doha, Qatar, will almost certainly include revisiting the country’s constitution. Both sides claim to abide by Islamic law, but they interpret it in very different ways. This report examines some of the constitutional issues that divide the two sides, placing them within the context of decades of turmoil in Afghanistan and suggesting ideas for how the peace process might begin to resolve them.

Type: Special Report

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Pathways for Post-Peace Development in Afghanistan

Pathways for Post-Peace Development in Afghanistan

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

By: Khyber Farahi; Scott Guggenheim

Even if the warring parties in Afghanistan manage to secure a still-elusive agreement on resolving the current conflict, significant economic challenges remain for the country, which will require continued assistance and support for core government functions. This report, based on an examination of Afghanistan’s recent development performance, provides a framework for how the Afghan government and its donor partners can more effectively deliver equitable development going forward.

Type: Special Report

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

Afghan Peace Process Tests Women Activists

Afghan Peace Process Tests Women Activists

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

By: Belquis Ahmadi; Matthew Parkes

More than a month after Afghan peace talks formally began, the effort to end the war in Afghanistan is stalled, and no one faces higher stakes than Afghan women. The attempt at negotiations has snagged on preliminary issues, the Taliban have escalated their attacks, and all sides are watching the evolution of the U.S. military role in the country. Afghan women’s rights advocates say the moment, and the need for international support, is critical. U.S. officials have noted how U.S assistance can be vital in supporting women’s rights, a principle that can be advanced at a global donors’ conference next month.

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