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Schedule of Forums, Topics & Speaker Bios for the Afghanistan Series

Congressional Progressive Caucus

Afghanistan: A Road Map For Progress
Seeking Global Security
A Project of the Congressional Progressive Caucus



1.  Historic Perspective on Afghanistan, its People and their Cultures (2:30pm, March 25th, Rayburn 2257)

What is the history of the country of Afghanistan?  Who are the people of Afghanistan?  How do cultural and ethnic relationships play a role in Afghan life?  What are the tribal regions and how do they differ from other regions?  What are the traditional mechanisms for conflict resolution among the peoples of Afghanistan?  What do the Afghan people want for their country, for both tribal and non tribal regions?  How do the Afghan people define peace and stability for their region?

Confirmed Speakers:

William R. Polk served President Kennedy on the Policy Planning Council, with responsibilities for most of the Islamic world, and was a member of the Crisis Management Committee during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He served as a Professor at the University of Chicago, where he established the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and was a founding director of the American Middle Eastern Studies Association.  In 1967, he also became President of the Adlai Stevenson Institute of International Affairs.  Professor Polk is also the author of many well-regarded books, including The United States and the Arab World (Harvard 1965, 1969, 1975, 1980, 1991) and Violent Politics: A History of Insurgency, Terrorism & Guerrilla War from the American Revolution to Iraq (HarperCollins, 2007, 2008).

Dr. Nabi Misdaq is a journalist, anthropologist and scholar from the Zazi tribe in Paktia province, Afghanistan. He worked for the BBC for nearly two decades as a radio journalist, producer and as head of BBC Pashto Service, broadcasting three times a day to Afghanistan and South Asia. Dr. Misdaq studied at Cambridge, LSE, and the University of Sussex and has taught Pashto at the George Mason University in Washington and Inlingua School in Roseland D.C. He is the author of Afghanistan: Political Frailty and External Interference (Routledge, 2008).

Edmund McWilliams is a retired senior Foreign Service Officer.  He served as Deputy Chief of Mission and periodically as Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Kabul (1986-88) and as the first "Special Envoy to Afghanistan" (1988-89).  He subsequently served as Deputy Chief of Mission and periodically as Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Dushanbe, 1992-94, where he reported on developments in Afghanistan.  McWilliams retired in 2001 after a 26-year career.


2.  Defining American Strategic Interests in Afghanistan and the
Northwest Border Area of Pakistan; Review of, and commentary on, President Obama’s release of the Administration’s Afghanistan Plan (2:30pm, April 1st, Cannon 345)

Why is America ultimately in Afghanistan?  What are the “strategic interests”?  How is the US military strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan increasing or decreasing the security of American and Afghan/Pak peoples? Is it within America’s strategic interests to help Afghanistan ensure political, economic, and social security and stability and if so, is the President’s plan sufficiently oriented towards that goal?

What measurements of progress will the President employ in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and who will monitor that progress?  What is actually achievable and how should Congress require this administration to measure progress and hold it accountable? 

Does governmental and contractor corruption, human rights abuses, loss of civilian life, and lack of full disclosure and transparency of all human causalities harm our strategic interests?  Should Congress extend the Special Inspector General mandate to Afghanistan (and Pakistan) as in Iraq?  Create rationale guidelines for accounting of military and non-military casualties as part of a strategic plan?

Confirmed Speakers:

Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell. Wilkerson is an adjunct professor at the College of William & Mary where he teaches courses on U.S. national security. He also instructs a senior seminar in the Honors Department at the George Washington University entitled "National Security Decision Making."

Ambassador Jim Dobbins is Director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center for the RAND Corporation. He has served several high-level positions in the State Department, including as the Bush Administration's first Special Envoy for Afghanistan

Abdulkader Sinno, PhD is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington.  His first book, Organizations at War in Afghanistan and Beyond (Cornell University Press, 2008) develops an organizational theory to explain the evolution and outcomes of civil wars, ethnic strife and other territorial conflicts.  He organized an international conference at Indiana University on Muslims in Western Politics and is the editor of a volume on the same topic (Muslims in Western Politics, Indiana University Press, 2009). He has researched and traveled extensively in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa.  He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses on Middle Eastern politics, politics of Muslims in the West, conflict processes and state building, research design, and comparative politics.

Joanne Trotter is Director of Programs with the Aga Khan Foundation, USA.  She served in Afghanistan, between 2005 and 2008, overseeing the Aga Khan Foundation’s work in rural development, civil society, health and education.  The Foundation reaches over one million people in the central highlands and north eastern region of Afghanistan.  Ms Trotter has overseas experience in Afghanistan, Argentina, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Mexico, Peru, and Portugal, primarily focusing on citizenship, civic education and governance.  


3. What should be the role and goals of the military in Afghanistan (and NW border region); How is the President’s military strategy increasing or decreasing security locally and regionally? (April 21st, 12:30pm-2:00pm, Rayburn 2175)

What should be the role of additional and current use of forces?   Is there a better alternative to using the military to engage people and their leadership in tribal regions? 

Does the new administration need to seek UN/international authorization for continued and increasing military force in Afghanistan?

What accountability standards should Congress establish over the use military force?  How should Congress work with the administration to bring about transparency and accountability of all military and related contractors’ spending in Afghanistan (and Pakistan)?

Does our increased military presence help deter or foster a greater insurgency?  Can we create a counter-insurgency strategy through the military that is accepted by Afghan people?

How do the often-heavy civilian casualties that result from our presence impact our overall effectiveness, our security, and our reputation locally and internationally?

Should military be used for reconstruction and stabilization activities, formerly under the State Department’s jurisdiction? What are the challenges and opportunities of the civil-military Provincial Reconstruction teams?

Confirmed Speakers:

Mr. Hekmat Karzai is currently the Director of the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) in Kabul, Afghanistan and previously served as head of the Political Department at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, D.C. His Master’s Degree dissertation entitled ‘Strengthening Security in Contemporary Afghanistan: Coping with the Taliban’ was published by the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.

Clare Lockhart is co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for State Effectiveness.  She is a specialist in law and public administration, trained at Oxford and Harvard.  Ms. Lockart served as a UN advisor in Afghanistan during the Bonn process and was an advisor to the Government of Afghanistan during the Transitional Administration, designing and managing a series of national initiatives.

Major General Paul D. Eaton is a retired United States Army General.  Major General Eaton had a long and distinguished career with the U.S. Army.  Prior to his retirement in 2006, he served as the Commanding General of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team (CMATT) in Iraq (June 2003 until March 2004).  In that role, he was charged with rebuilding the Iraqi Armed Forces.  From March 2004 until June 2004, Major General Eaton was further charged with the development of all Iraqi Security Forces.  After his retirement from the Army in 2006, Major General Eaton became well-known for his outspoken criticism of the Bush Administration’s policy in Iraq.


4. What should a comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan address? Are the administration’s Afghanistan and NW border region strategies comprehensive enough to cultivate lasting peace? (10:00am, April 28th, Rayburn 2237)

What goals – political, economic, social, other – should be established for Afghanistan and Pakistan, and how do we determine ‘what is success’? 

What physical and human infrastructure needs must be addressed to improve the country’s economy and foster countrywide and regional trading opportunities for lasting economic gains among all Afghans?

Should creation of a business training strategy for traders, market managers, small businesspersons and targeting women in establishing economic and political leadership training agendas be a part of a comprehensive strategy?

•    How do we foster greater inclusion and more significant roles for women in business, governance and as part of the educational system at all levels?
•    What viable alternative options are available to transition farmers away from opium cultivation and into viable markets for alternative food crops?

What role should private contractors play in any of the above?  Are there best practices for private contractors and who should be measuring and monitoring these practices?

Should there be criteria applied to all strategies above so that tribal, cultural, contextual, environmental and social implications are considered?

Confirmed Speakers:

Alexander Thier is director of the Future of Afghanistan Project at the US Institute of Peace. He is also an attorney and served as a legal adviser to Afghanistan’s Constitutional and Judicial Reform Commissions in Kabul.

Dr. Reuben Brigety is the Director of the Sustainable Security Program at American Progress and previously served as a special assistant in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development. He is a Distinguished Midshipman Graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.

Dr. Adil Najam is Director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for the Study of the Longer-Range Future and Professor of International Relations and Geography and the Environment at Boston University. He also and served as a Lead Author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), work for which the IPCC was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, along with Al Gore.


5. Pakistan foreign policy in the context of Afghanistan; Is US foreign policy in Pakistan building a more or less secure state? (May 5th, 2:00pm, Rayburn 2237)

How has America’s foreign policy in Pakistan, which historically has been primarily of military nature, helped or hindered the country’s ability to build a secure and stable society?

What military, political, economic and social strategies are we pursuing in the FATA and NWFP?  How will each one of these strategies bring more security to FATA, NWFP and the region?

How are Afghanistan and Pakistan interrelated, geopolitically and socio-culturally? How does instability in one country impact stability in the other?

How does the history of tribal resistance impact the Taliban movement now in the tribal areas?

Are our predator strikes within Pakistan wise military policy or exasperating efforts to achieve lasting political solutions in the region?  Do these actions, intended to stabilize the region, actually feed further instability?

How do Pakistani-Indian tensions play into any strategy?

Confirmed Speakers:

Ahmed Rashid has been called “Pakistan’s best and bravest reporter,” and is the 2001 recipient of the Nisar Asmani Award for Courage in Journalism from the Human Rights Society of Pakistan. He lives in Lahore and is the author of Descent into Chaos: The U.S. and the Disaster in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia (April 2009, Penguin). 

Ambassador Akbar-Ahmed is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution and the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University. He is also a former High Commissioner of Pakistan to Great Britain and the author of Journey into Islam: The Crisis of Globalization (Brookings Institution Press, 2007).

Azhar Hussain is the Vice President for Preventive Diplomacy at the International Center for Religion & Diplomacy (ICRD).  Mr. Hussain heads ICRD’s Pakistan Madrasa Project, which encourages expansion of madrasa pedagogies and curriculums to include scientific and social disciplines, particularly those promoting religious tolerance, human (and women’s) rights, and conflict resolution/dialogue facilitation skills.  Mr. Hussain’s programs have trained over 2100 madrasa leaders to date. He has also pioneered initiatives to engage religious and political leaders in Afghanistan.  Mr. Hussain has been providing educational and intercultural consulting services for multi-national organizations for the past ten years with a successful history of training and development initiatives throughout the world, including in India, Pakistan, Britain, the US, and Mexico.


6. Forging an International Diplomatic Strategy for Afghanistan; Is the President’s international strategy working? What needs to be improved? (May 13th, 2:00pm, Cannon 210)

How do we work with regional stakeholders – Iran, China, Russia, Pakistan, and the central Asian states – as well as our NATA allies in order to improve the situation in Afghanistan?  Is the President’s proposed “Contact Group” the right forum and is it effective?
How can, or should, we utilize discussions on Afghanistan to open better relations with the Iranians in terms of US-Iran diplomatic efforts?

If we are requesting international partnerships and assistance for rebuilding Afghanistan, what does this mean for US compliance with international institutions (UN) and treaties (Geneva Convention) monitoring conflict engagement?

Confirmed Speakers:

Dr. Trita Parsi is President of the National Iranian-American Council. He is also the author of Treacherous Alliance - The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States (Yale University Press, 2007), recipient of the Council on Foreign Relation's 2008 Arthur Ross Silver Medallion. 

Sweeta Noori is the Country Director for Women for Women International - Afghanistan.  During the mid-1990's, Ms. Noori worked with the International Rescue Committee on health and agriculture projects in Pakistan.  In 2001, continued her work with IRC as a team leader for implementing health and education initiatives in various parts of Afghanistan.  Prior to joining Women for Women International, Ms. Noori was an assistant to the Chair of the Loya Jerga Commission in forming the interim administration of Afghanistan.  Ms. Noori has traveled extensively presenting on the situation of women and girls in Afghanistan.

Mr. M. Ashraf Haidari is the Counselor for Political, Security, and Development Affairs at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC.  Before joining Afghanistan’s Foreign Service, Mr. Haidari worked in various positions at Georgetown University, researched and consulted with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Center for Documentation and Research (CDR) and Regional Bureau for Central Asia, South West Asia, North Africa, and the Middle East (CASWANAME), worked with the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP) and served as Assistant to the UN Area Security Coordinator, the UN Team Leader, and the UN Flight Coordinator in Afghanistan from 1995-1997. From 1992-1995, he worked as Field Officer with UNHCR for the Afghan and Tajik Refugees Program in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Afghanistan Forums: Key Considerations (01/24/1105:29 PMET )