The Middle East Institute's (MEI) Louis R. Hughes Lecture Series was pleased to host Ali Jalali, Michael Kugelman, Omar Samad, and Scott Smith for an examination of the political and security challenges facing Afghanistan's government and how they are likely to play out over the next several months.
Public confidence in Afghanistan has been shaken by deteriorating security, a stagnant economy, and factionalism. Many question if parliamentary elections can be organized on schedule, or be seen as legitimate if they happen. If milestones on the constitutional roadmap - electing a parliament, convening a Loya Jirga, establishing the office of prime minister - are not met, what consequences could follow? Can the government and army reverse Taliban gains and reduce the violence plaguing the country? And what more can the U.S. and international partners do to promote security and stability?
MEI's Marvin Weinbaum moderated the discussion.
Former Interior Minister of Afghanistan and Professor, National Defense University
Ali Jalali, former Interior Minister of Afghanistan (Jan. 2003-Sept. 2005), currently serves as a distinguished professor at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University (NDU). Prior to assuming his ministerial post in Kabul in 2003, Jalali worked with Voice of America as director of broadcasts in Pashto, Dari, and Farsi languages to Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia. As journalist, he covered the war in Afghanistan (1982-1993) and in Central Asia (1993-2000). Jalali has taught at institutions of higher education in Afghanistan and has lectured at NDU, the U.S. Army War College, and the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, among others.
Senior Associate for South Asia, Wilson Center
Michel Kugelman is the senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, where he is responsible for research, programming, and publications on the region. His main specialty countries are Pakistan, India, and Afghanistan, and his current research and writing projects focus on post-2014 Afghanistan. Kugelman is a monthly columnist for Foreign Policy’s South Asia Channel and for War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security analysis. Additionally, he is a regular contributor to the Wall Street Journal’s Think Tank blog. He has also published op-eds and commentaries in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Politico, among others.
Amb. Omar Samad
Former Ambassador-Designate to Belgium and the EU, Previous Senior Advisor to the Chief Executive of Afghanistan, and Past Ambassador to France and to Canada
Ambassador Omar Samad received agrement as Afghan ambassador-designate to Belgium, the EU, and NATO. From December 2014 to January 2016, he was senior advisor for policy and strategy to the chief executive of Afghanistan in Kabul. Previously, he was a senior Central Asia fellow at the New America Foundation, president of SilkRoad Consulting, and the senior Afghan expert at the United States Institute of Peace, during which time he conducted and published a survey of views and perceptions of Afghan political elites on the 2014 transitions in Afghanistan. He was Afghanistan's Ambassador to France (2009-2011) and to Canada (2004-2009) and served as the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2001-2004).
Member, United Nations Standby Mediation Team
Scott Smith is a member of the 2016 United Nations Standby Mediation Team, where he is a specialist in power-sharing arrangements. He previously was the director for the United States Institute of Peace’s Afghanistan and Central Asia programs between 2012 and 2016. Smith spent 13 years at the United Nations, focusing primarily on Afghanistan and democratization issues. In that capacity he served as the senior special assistant to the special representative of the secretary-general in Kabul from January 2009 to August 2010 and senior political affairs officer and team leader for Afghanistan in the department of peacekeeping operations. He is the author of Afghanistan’s Troubled Transition (2011) and co-editor of Getting it Right in Afghanistan (2013).
Director, Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute
Marvin Weinbaum (moderator) is director of the Center for Pakistan Studies at the Middle East Institute. He is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and served as analyst for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1999 to 2003.