Jason Criss Howk (USA)- Director of Global Friends
Jason retired from the US Army after 23 years of working on critical US national security missions and spent most of his career focused on Afghanistan. He was posted to Afghanistan after the events of 9/11. Jason helped with the formation of the Afghan National Army and developed the Security Sector Reform program as Aide De Camp to Major General (later Ambassador) Eikenberry. He was also Aide-de-Camp to General (Ret) Stanley A. McChrystal during the US/ NATO strategic assessment of the Afghan War. Next, he assisted Lt General (Ret) Sir Graeme Lamb (British Army) and the Afghan government on the 2010 Afghan Peace and Reconciliation Plan. Finally, Jason led two teams monitoring Afghanistan and Pakistan on the US Joint Chiefs of Staff for the Department of Defense (DOD) and the White House.
As a professor, Jason was part of the 2016 Presidential Transition National Security team, and later assisted US CENTCOM and NATO Resolute Support Mission on Afghanistan. He has advised NATO, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), and the US and Afghan governments. He has worked on Afghan projects for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). Jason studied Dari (Afghan Farsi) and Arabic at the Defense Language Institute (DLI), is a Malone Fellow in Arab and Islamic Studies, an interfaith leader, and was a Council on Foreign Relations term-member. Jason earned his master's degree in South Asian and Middle Eastern Security Studies from Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).
John Agoglia (USA)- GFA Deputy Director for Partnerships
John Agoglia is the director of Trinity Planning & Investments LLC. He served as director of the Counterinsurgency Training Center-Afghanistan in Kabul from 2008-2010 and also the director of the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute.
John is the Deputy Director of Global Friends and is responsible for our partnerships and outreach programs.
Sarah Hearn OBE (UK) International Development and Policy Expert
Sarah Hearn OBE is a senior expert on international peace and development and an adjunct professor of global governance at New York University (NYU). She is co-signatory on a letter from senior ex-UK government personnel to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on priority measures to evacuate the UK’s Afghan staff and allies. Sarah is also a member of a group of former senior UK personnel, the Afghanistan Diplomacy and Development Alliance, which aims to help Afghan allies to safety in Britain.
Sarah worked for over a decade in the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, London, New York and Uganda. During her time with Afghanistan, Sarah worked in UK aid in Kabul, served as deputy director of the FCO Afghan drugs unit in London, and Director of Programs in the NATO/ISAF Force Reintegration Cell in ISAF HQ.
She later served as Special Adviser to the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding in New York, and as Associate Director and Senior Fellow at NYU, where she facilitated international negotiations on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Sarah has advised on international peace and development priorities to the G7, NATO, the OECD, UN, and The World Bank. Her work has been cited by the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian UK, Radio France Internationale, The Sentinel and The Wire in India, World Politics Review and The Broker at the EU, among others.
Sarah holds an M.Phil. (2002) from the University of Oxford and a B.A. Hons. (1999) from University College London. In 2012, she was awarded the OBE by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II for services to international development.
Rahela Sidiqi (Afghanistan) Education and Social Reformer
Rahela Sidiqi is the Director and Founder of Farkhunda, an Educational Trust for Afghan Women. Mrs. Sidiqi was a Senior Advisor of Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission of Afghanistan (IARCSC), where she developed and led various reform policies across the country, such as civil service law, reform procedures, and structural adjustment processes.
Rahela Sidiqi has been governance and reform advisor at senior levels of both government and international organizations, where she helped develop strategic policies, implementation plans, administrative reform, capacity building, and the grassroots development for UN-Habitat, CIESVE, DFID, USAID, UNHCR, and OXFAM, and Civil Service Commissions along with 47 ministerial agencies and several NGOs in the private sector.
Mrs. Sidiqi was instrumental in reviewing and editing the structure of each ministry based on their services volume, duplication of tasks, areas of integration, and relevancies in relationship to the job description. This was done by providing technical support to Civil Service management departments in order to develop a successful performance evaluation to meet the vision and missions of the organizations.
Rahela Sidiqi also led a team of technical advisors in the provision of technical analysis of pay and grading systems to the cabinets of Afghanistan, and in addition, she presented the IARCSC's ‘vision & mission’ legislation body to the government and other international donors.
With an MA in Social Development and Sustainable Livelihoods, Rahela Sidiqi was a member of Technical Advisor Group for Transparency & Right to Information at The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and led initial Access to Information Law consultation in Afghanistan, with government and civil society organizations during 2009-2011.
She wrote on Afghanistan's progress on transparency and the right to information for the years 2010-2015. Rahela Sidiqi has also written and contributed to several articles and academic research papers related to reform and capacity building.
Dr. Mir Sadat (USA) National Security
Dr. Mir Sadat has more than 25 years of experience in private industry and government. Dr. Sadat is a former policy director at the U.S. National Security Council, where he led interagency coordination on defense and space policy issues.
In this role, Dr. Sadat supported the establishment of both the U.S. Space Force and U.S. Space Command and reviewed national security decisions involving civil space (NASA) and the U.S. commercial space sector. He was also a naval officer with intelligence and space qualifications. In his preceding two naval assignments, he served as a space policy strategist with Chief of Naval Operations and as a space operations officer with U.S. Tenth Fleet. In addition, Sadat has previously deployed to overseas contingency operations in Afghanistan, where he served as a strategic advisor to two International Security Assistance Force commanding generals.
Dr. Sadat has served as a cultural advisor to two Hollywood productions—The Kite Runner and Charlie Wilson’s War. He has a Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University and has taught at various universities in California and Washington, DC. He has trained and educated US and NATO troops on a variety of topics to increase their operational capability and strategic impact. Sadat has written extensively on US national security, space, Afghanistan, South Asia, and the broader Middle East.
He is a senior fellow with the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council and an adjunct scholar with the Modern War Institute at West Point.
Abdul Rahman Rahmani (Afghanistan) National Security
Abdul Rahman Rahmani is a national security expert with over 18 years of experience in combat and strategic policy relating to Afghanistan, Central, and South Asia. Rahmani was born in Afghanistan. He holds a bachelor's degree in sociology from Kabul University and an undergraduate degree from Expeditionary Warfare School, Marine Corps University. He is currently working towards his master's degree at National Defense University (NDU) in Washington DC. He joined the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and trained to become a helicopter pilot and engineer. He rose to the rank of Colonel.
Prior to his studies at NDU, Rahmani worked as the Director of the Presidential Information Coordination Center (PICC) and the head of International Sanctions and Terrorism, Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) at the Afghan Presidential Palace in Kabul, Afghanistan.
The Afghanistan government rewarded Rahmani for his bravery and courage under fire. He is a recipient of the Medal of Shah Amanullah Khan Award, given to him by former Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2014. He rescued 45 Afghan commandos kept as prisoners by the Taliban in the Sangin district of Helmand province.
Rahmani was a member of Special Mission Wing and Task Force 333, two elite Afghan Special Forces Units. He was instrumental in providing intelligence support during counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. Rahmani is a skilled information technology officer and was instrumental in modernizing Afghan missions in countering terrorism and other threats to coalition forces in Afghanistan. His work has been widely praised by those that served UNAMA and NATO missions.
He has extensive experience with briefing policymakers, security ministers, generals, and politicians at all levels. Rahmani was responsible for monitoring United Nations Security Council Sanctions in Afghanistan. Rahmani has excelled at risk analysis and being able to see over the horizon. His strategic acumen has won him plaudits in Afghanistan and abroad. His work and training with the United States have made Rahmani a valuable asset for Afghan-US relations.
Pashtana Durrani (Afghanistan) Education Leader
Pashtana Durrani is an Afghan human rights activist and community development expert whose focus is girls’ education.
Pashtana is a visiting fellow at the Wellesley Centers for Women (WCW). She is an Afghan human rights activist and community development expert whose focus is girls’ education. During her time at WCW, she is continuing her research to help Afghan women and girls pursue education and support the health of Afghan mothers and babies.
Durrani is the founder of LEARN Afghanistan (@LearnAfg), a grassroots organization established to safely and securely provide education to girls through a distributed network of tablet computers using an offline platform. Through LEARN, she has educated 7,000 girls and boys in Kandahar, Afghanistan, and trained more than 80 teachers in digital literacy. LEARN also focuses on girls’ health, and has trained 700 girls in menstrual hygiene management.
Awards & Recognition
Durrani was named an Education Champion by the Malala Fund for her outstanding work to advance Afghan girls’ education. She was a global youth representative for Amnesty International and a board member of the steering committee for the Global Environment Facility, an international partnership to address pressing environmental concerns. She is also a winner of the 2021 Tällberg-SNF-Eliasson Emerging Leader prize, which recognizes leaders who have addressed complex global challenges in innovative ways. Pashtana Durrani was among the BBC 100 influential women list for the year 2021.
Nasirullah John (Afghanistan)
Author & former Interpreter to US Forces
Nasirullah "John" Safi was born and raised in the war-torn country of Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. While many schools were closed at that time due to radicalism and extremism, he had a desire to always learn more from a very young age. He began a path to acquire an education no matter how hard the road was. He bounced back and forth between Madrassas and homeschooling to fulfill the dream of becoming a medical doctor, a profession that Safi and his mother chose because she suffered from chronic illness and he wanted to help her. Unfortunately, attending Madrassas wouldn't help him achieve his goals. In 2001, a U.S.-led coalition began the war on terror that not only changed his life for the better, but it also improved the lives of millions of Afghan men, women, and children as well.
Buy his new book “Get the Terp Up Here!”
Ejaz Ahmad Malikzada (Afghanistan)
Advisory Board Education
Ejaz Ahmad Malikzada is the former Director of Anti-Corruption in the Office of the First Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, before the Taliban occupation of Afghanistan. Besides this, Ejaz helped the First Vice President as his special aide for Peace Efforts. Before his work as Director of Anti-Corruption, Ejaz worked with the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies as External Relations Officer.
Malikzada was also a senior member at Afghanistan Green Trend, a youth-led grassroots organization that aimed at fighting extremism and radicalization among youth and promoted youth participation in governance in Afghanistan.
Dr. Bahar Jalili
Dr. Bahar Jalali is an Afghan-American academic. Born in Afghanistan, she fled the country as a child after the Soviet invasion. In 2009, she returned to Afghanistan to work at the newly opened American University in Kabul where she taught History of Afghanistan and founded the first Gender Studies program in the history of the country. She spent 8.5 years teaching and working towards women's empowerment in Afghanistan. She recently launched an online campaign with the hashtag #DoNotTouchMyClothes and #AfghanistanCulture to protect and preserve Afghan cultural heritage in the wake of the Taliban take-over of power in Afghanistan. This online campaign garnered widespread international media coverage and raised awareness about authentic Afghan attire and the need to safeguard Afghanistan’s heritage. She is currently a Visiting Associate Professor of History at Loyola University Maryland in the United States.
Sara Wahedi is the CEO and Founder of Ehtesab, Afghanistan’s first civic technology startup. Ehtesab has been providing real-time security and city service alerts through the ‘Ehtesab App’ to Kabul residents since June 2020, and is expanding to three major cities across the country by the end of this year. Earlier this year, she was named as one of TIME Magazine’s ’Next Generation Leaders’, and is a 2022 semi-finalist for MIT Technology Review’s ‘Innovators under 35’ list, for her work in democratizing access to information for Afghans. Sara previously worked at the Office of the President of Afghanistan, responsible for supporting social development policy and projects across the country. She is also currently completing her studies in Data Science and Human Rights at Columbia University.
Rear Admiral, USN (Ret), Paul Becker
RADM Paul Becker, USN (Ret) Paul Becker is a senior executive with a unique combination of business, military, cyber, and leadership experience. Paul served around the world, afloat and ashore, in peace crisis and combat. From 2016-17, he led the Presidential Transition’s Intelligence Community Landing Team which provided policy input, strategic guidance, and operational counsel to a new administration.
Specific military service includes; Director of Intelligence for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii, the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command in Afghanistan, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, and Commanding Officer of Central Command’s Joint Intelligence Center in Tampa.
He holds an MPA from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and BS from the US Naval Academy.
Rear Admiral Becker is the recipient of the National Intelligence Community's and Department of Defense’s Distinguished Service Medals, and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.
Hosai Ahmadzai is a news and current affairs presenter for Shamshad Radio & Television Network which is based in Afghanistan and Dubai. Shamshad TV was launched in early 2006 and broadcasts 24 hours a day. Shamshad TV is one of the most popular Pashto language television stations in Afghanistan. Ahmadzai has grown her career around Shamshad’s network. She’s an English, Dari, Urdu, and Pashto speaker. Her work involved translating and analysing news for a wide range of audiences. She’s also been awarded for her excellent work on radio broadcasting in Afghanistan.
Hosai also has a background in education and teaching. Before her career in broadcasting, she was an instructor at the Jahan School and the Tander Educational Center in Afghanistan.
GFA Media Fellow
Waliullah Rahmani is a media fellow at Global Friends of Afghanistan. Rahmani is an Asia researcher of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). From 2016 to the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021, he was the founder and director of Khabarnama Media, one of the first digital media organizations in Afghanistan. Before that, Rahmani has served as senior adviser to the Executive Office of the national unity government of Afghanistan.
Waliullah also served as the founding director of the Kabul Center for Strategic Studies from 2007 to 2014. In his research, Rahmani has focused on terrorism, insurgency, radical Islamic movements, Afghanistan, and the broader South Asian region for over a decade.
The GFA Journal
Melanie Benson is the Senior Editor for A Voice for Two Nations, the journal for GFA.
Melanie currently serves as the Senior Global Practice Area Coordinator for Social Impact at the Boston Consulting Group, based in Paris, France. She has over a decade of program management and operations experience serving organizations within both the public and private sectors.
She formerly acted as an Assistant Director at the Sanford School for Public Policy at Duke University where she was responsible for the Program in American Grand Strategy. From 2014-2017, Melanie was a member of the Aerospace & Defense and Public Sector teams at the Boston Consulting Group in Washington, DC, managing client relationships across practices.
Melanie holds a M.A. in International Conflict Resolution from George Washington University and a B.A. in International Affairs, Political Science, and Spanish from Marquette University.
Megan Minnion (Canada) International Defence and Security
Megan Minnion is a Canadian citizen with twenty-five years experience in the defence and security sector. For two and a half years, she served as a political advisor to NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan and subsequently was appointed the Transition Task Force Team Leader for UNAMA and UNDP from 2011-2013. In this position, she coordinated the Transition Task Force across 27 UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes and drafted several analytical papers including a substantive piece on the impact of the drawdown of ISAF on the Afghan economy.
Megan was the first political advisor for USFOR-A’s TF2010, focused on counter corruption and contract vetting, followed by working with the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force Shafafiyat (Farsi/Pashto for Transparency). She also worked for UNDP’s Afghan Sub-National Governance Programme and later helped set up an Afghan NGO with a group of friends. In autumn 2021, Megan became part of the core team of volunteer experts supporting the Uplift Afghanistan Fund who have since distributed food, medicine, and supplies to thousands of families across Afghanistan.
Since 2002, Megan has worked on and off at NATO Headquarters in various areas including the Building Integrity Programme; Operations (Afghanistan, Iraq, Global Coalition); Defence and Security Related Capacity Building; Women, Peace and Security; Media Operations and Public Diplomacy. Megan was a former soldier and Electronic Warfare Land Tactical Specialist in the Canadian Armed Forces and, separately, organized rehabilitative programmes in various penitentiaries in Canada while studying at Queen’s University. Megan has a Master’s Degree in Business Administration focused on Strategic Defence Management from the Royal Military College of Canada.
Megan is a proud mom of two children, loves cycling, and placed eighth in Nepal’s World Elephant Polo Championship.
Fmr. Ambassador Husain Haqqani (Pakistan-USA) Senior Fellow
Husain Haqqani is a senior fellow and director for South and Central Asia at Hudson Institute. He served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2011 and is widely credited with managing a difficult partnership during a critical phase in the global war on terrorism.
Amb. Haqqani’s distinguished career in government includes serving as an advisor to four Pakistani Prime ministers: Yusuf Raza Gilani, Benazir Bhutto, Nawaz Sharif, and Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi. He also served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Sri Lanka from 1992 to 1993.
Amb. Haqqani is the author of four books: Pakistan Between Mosque and Military (Carnegie, 2005), Magnificent Delusions: Pakistan, the United States and an Epic History of Misunderstanding (Public Affairs, 2013), India vs Pakistan: Why Can’t We Just Be Friends? (Juggernaut, 2016) and Reimagining Pakistan: Transforming a Dysfunctional Nuclear State (Harper Collins, 2018).
Considered an expert on radical Islamist movements, Amb. Haqqani is co-editor with Hillel Fradkin and Eric Brown of Hudson’s journal, Current Trends in Islamist Ideology.
Amb. Haqqani was formerly director of the Center of International Relations, and a professor of the practice of international relations at Boston University. His areas of expertise include diplomacy, Muslim political movements, international journalism, intercultural relations, South Asia, Central Asia, South-East Asia, the Middle-East, and U.S.-Pakistan relations.
Amb. Haqqani received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international relations from the University of Karachi. Born in Karachi, Pakistan, he acquired traditional Islamic learning as well as a modern education in international relations. His journalism career started with work as East Asian correspondent for Arabia: The Islamic World Review during the turbulent years following the Iranian revolution. During this period he wrote extensively on Muslims in China and East Asia and Islamic political movements. Later, as Pakistan and Afghanistan correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, he covered the war in Afghanistan and acquired a deep understanding of militant Islamist Jihadi groups.
Amb. Haqqani has contributed numerous op-eds and articles to international publications and also regularly comments on television and radio programs.
General Joseph L. Votel (Rtd)
(USA) Advisory Committee
General Joseph L. Votel is a retired U.S. Army Four-Star officer and most recently the Commander of the U.S. Central Command – responsible for U.S. and coalition military operations in the Middle East, Levant, and Central and South Asia.
During his 39 years in the military, he commanded special operations and conventional military forces at every level. His career included combat in Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Notably, he led a 79-member coalition that successfully liberated Iraq and Syria from the Islamic State Caliphate. He preceded his assignment at CENTCOM with service as the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command.
Votel was recognized with the Distinguished Military Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council, the U.S. – Arab Defense Leadership Award from the National Council on U.S. - Arab Relations, the Patriot Award from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, the SGT James T. Regan Lifetime Achievement Award from the “Lead the Way” Foundation and the Freedom Award from the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum.
In January of 2020, General Votel became President & CEO of Business Executives for National Security (BENS). He is a Strategic Advisor for Sierra Nevada Corporation as well as a member of the Board of Trustees for Noblis Corporation. Votel is a non-resident Distinguished Fellow at the Middle East Institute and the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and advises the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He sits on the Executive Board of Freedom House and the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL). He serves on the Board of Directors for Service to School, Minnesota Wire, Digital Force Technologies, and Owl Cyber Defense. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Votel is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy and earned master’s degrees from the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the Army War College. He is married to Michele; and they have two grown sons, a daughter-in-law and two grandchildren. The Votels reside in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.
Haroon Andar, D.O. (Afghanistan- USA) Community Relations
Haroon Andar, D.O. is a Double Board Certified Interventional Pain Management Physician practicing out of Miami, Florida. He is an Afghan-American who is also a proud native of Florida where he attended the University of Florida. There he earned his B.S. in Political Science and completed an internship in Washington D.C. with the Midwestern Governors Association having a significant interest in public policy. Upon completion of his undergraduate studies, he soon pursued his Doctorate of Osteopathic Medicine degree from Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN. Subsequently, he completed a residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Nova Southeastern University/Larkin Community Hospital in South Miami, FL followed by further advanced training with an Interventional Pain Management Fellowship.
As a first-generation Afghan-American, he has devoted himself to fostering, maintaining, and expansion of continued Afghan-American relations. In the wake of the US Withdrawal, he has also volunteered his time and efforts to help resettle Afghan refugees in the Miami-Dade County region. He has a particularly keen interest in the advancement of the educational sector for the Afghan people and enhancing student relations between both nations.
Martin J. Bowling
Colonel Martin J. Bowling was commissioned from Auburn University into the United States Army as an Infantry Officer in 1999 and assigned to the 3rd Infantry Division completing a peacekeeping tour in Kosovo and serving as a member of the initial invasion force for Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
In 2005 he was reassigned to the 101st Airborne Division, where he served as a staff officer and company commander with the 187th Infantry Regiment (Rakkasans) during his second tour in Iraq.
In 2007 he was selected as a JCS/OSD Intern completing a masters degree at Georgetown University followed by assignments to the Joint Staff and the Army Staff. In 2010 he was reassigned to the 82nd Airborne Division where he served as an Operations and Executive Officer and completed a third deployment to Iraq.
In 2015 he was assigned to the Commander’s Action Group (CAG) at United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) in Stuttgart, Germany before being selected for battalion command.
In 2017 he assumed command of the 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division and while in command he returned his battalion and their Veterans to Vietnam to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Battle of Hamburger Hill.
In 2019 he returned to the Pentagon as the Executive Officer for the Headquarters, Department of the Army G3/5/7 before his selection in 2021 as a U.S. Army War College Fellow at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy in Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service.
COL Bowling's awards and decorations include three Bronze Stars, the Legion of Merit, the Defense Meritorious and the Meritorious Service Medals, the Combat Infantryman's Badge, the Expert Infantryman’s Badge, the Ranger Tab as well as Senior Parachutist, Pathfinder and Air Assault Badges.
He is married to the former Kerry Crawford of Hopewell, VA. They have two sons Ethan and Jack.
Ambassador (Ret) Hugo Llorens
Hugo Llorens is a retired U.S. Ambassador. Currently, Llorens serves as the CEO of his own international consulting firm. As such, he provides advice to U.S. and international firms on political, trade, and investment matters pertaining to markets in Canada, Latin America, Europe, South Asia, and the Western Pacific. He utilizes his 36 years of diplomatic experience and leverages his network of global contacts to enhance his clients’ business prospects. He also does public speaking on leadership and foreign affairs issues and is currently writing a book about his diplomatic experiences.
In 2016-2017, Ambassador Llorens served as Chief of Mission of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. In Kabul he led the largest U.S. Embassy in the world with a staff of 8,500 U.S., Afghan and Third Country National employees representing 22 U.S. government agencies. During his tenure in Afghanistan, Llorens spearheaded the U.S. diplomatic effort in a priority conflict-ridden nation during the Obama and Trump Administrations. He worked closely with the incoming Trump national security team in developing a new strategic approach towards Afghanistan that encompasses governance, military and security, development and trade and investment components.
Prior to his tenure in Afghanistan (2013-2016), Llorens was the principal officer in Sydney, Australia, the United States’ oldest diplomatic mission in the Asia Pacific region (established in 1836). In Sydney he served as the lead U.S. diplomat responsible for promoting trade and investment and managing U.S. ties with the vast and resource-rich states of New South Wales and Queensland, which together account for over 50% of Australia's GDP. Sydney is the business and financial capital of Australia and is the corporate headquarters for the lion's share of major U.S., and Australian firms operating in this rapidly growing Asia-Pacific nation.
Ambassador Hugo Llorens was the Assistant Chief of Mission (an Ambassador-level position) at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from May 2012 to June a 2013. In that position he served as the Chief Operating Officer of the largest Embassy in the world, and played a prominent role in the successful negotiation of the Bilateral Security Agreement, which defines the long-term U.S.-Afghan relationship as the U.S. presence transitioned from a direct combat role to more of an advisory role.
Previous to his first assignment in Afghanistan, Llorens was Ambassador-in-Residence and a faculty advisor for diplomatic statecraft at the National War College in Fort McNair Washington DC -- the pre-eminent educational institution training senior military officers and diplomats on the art and science of grand strategy. At the War College, Llorens directed an effort to strengthen the strategic leadership components of the curriculum. He also provided substantive expertise on diplomatic statecraft, governance, rule of law, combatting organized crime, Western Hemisphere issues, and international trade/investment/energy issues.
Llorens served as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from September 2008 to July 2011. In Tegucigalpa he was a key Administration player in managing the Honduran coup crisis of 2009. His on the ground efforts resulted in the successful negotiation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, the holding of free and fair elections, and the restoration of the democratic and constitutional order. In Honduras he led an Embassy team of 450 American and Honduran staff representing 12 U.S. government agencies with a combined operating budget of $20 million, plus 175 Peace Corps volunteers. He also coordinated a combined USAID and MCC economic development portfolio totaling $150 million in annual disbursements, plus sizeable military and counter narcotics assistance programs.
Prior to his nomination and confirmation as Ambassador, he served for two years as the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the American Embassy in Madrid, where he took up his duties on September 1, 2006. Ambassador Llorens was also Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he served for three years from August 2003 until July 2006.
From 2002-2003, Llorens was Director of Andean Affairs at the NSC, where he was the principal advisor to the President and National Security Advisor on issues pertaining to Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. Prior to the NSC, he served for three years (1999-2002) as Principal Officer at the Consulate General in Vancouver, Canada. In Vancouver, he created a novel multi-agency “Law Enforcement Hub” that included the opening of FBI, ATF, U.S. Customs, Secret Service, and Regional Security offices to work with Canadian counterparts on counterterrorism and international crime investigations.
From 1997-1999, Mr. Llorens was Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs where he helped launch the FTAA negotiations in 1998. As a veteran diplomat who began his career in 1981, he has served in economic, commercial, consular and counter drug positions in Tegucigalpa, La Paz, Asunción, San Salvador, and Manila.
Llorens received his Master of Science in National Security Studies, National War College in 1997; Master of Arts in Economics, University of Kent at Canterbury, England in 1980; and Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in 1977.
Llorens has earned numerous awards for distinguished performance, including eight Superior Honor and six Meritorious Honor Awards. He is a past recipient of the Cobb Award for excellence in the promotion of U.S. business, was runner-up for the Saltzman Award for distinguished performance in advancing U.S. international economic interests, and was nominated for the James Baker Award for superior performance by a Deputy Chief of Mission. He speaks Spanish, Tagalog, and some French.
In 2019 German President Frank-Walter Steinmeyer awarded Ambassador Llorens the Civilian Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for his pivotal role in supporting German diplomatic staff in Afghanistan following the bombing and destruction of the German Embassy in Kabul in May 2017. The award ceremony took place on June 19, 2019 at the German Embassy in Washington DC.
Llorens is a member of the American Academy of Diplomacy and the American College of National Security Leaders.
Dr. Ahmad Farhad Fidai (Afghanistan)
Friend of Afghanistan
Dr. Ahmad Farhad Fidai is a founder of Freelance Translation Interpretation Services Co based in Afghanistan, established since 2003 Freelance Translation Interpretation Services LLC based in the United States of America established since 2020.
He has graduated from Kabul Medical Faculty in the year 2007. He has widely traveled as a simultaneous interpreter across the world and attended thousands of conferences across five continents.
He is also a professional simultaneous interpreter and cricket commentator.
Ronald Leonard Smith Sr. (USA)
Ronald L. Smith Sr. is a member of the North Carolina Judicial Standards Commission.
Smith is an Executive with extensive experience in operations management, strategic planning, and international management. Proven track record in leading, managing, and producing in both private and public sectors working with the military, and government agencies including State, Justice and Defense Departments, Foreign Governments, and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO).
He Directed Emergency Operations CONUS/OCONUS for natural and man-made disasters supporting the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), FEMA, Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), USAID to include Haiti relief operations, UN Sub-Saharan operations, and Hurricanes including Sandy, Irene, and Isaac. Extensive experience in Sub-Saharan Africa including Liberia, Sudan (Darfur), South Sudan, Uganda, Somalia, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia; the Arabian Peninsula; and Afghanistan.
Kawser Amine (Afghanistan-USA)
Kawser Amine was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. She earned a Bachelor's degree in general management with a specialization in international relations at the Indian School of Business Management in New Delhi, India.
Kawser worked with different parts of society, helping to show that females were having a major role in leadership positions in Afghanistan. This effort was celebrated because it improved the participation of women in leadership, governance, politics, and the peace process in Afghanistan. Kawser used her position as a former high-profile athlete to advance women's rights, health, and education. Kawser also founded the women's leadership club/women's soccer club at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).
She worked as a leadership program assistant at the Office of the National Security Council, Afghanistan. Kawser worked as a political analyst for the Secretary Council of Afghanistan in the Arg, the Afghan presidential office. She was also a gender program adviser in the Ministry of Women Affairs.
Since the fall of Kabul, she has raised her voice for Afghanistan. She has been interviewed by local and international news channels regarding the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Kawser has started a campaign for Afghan women's education.
Kawser wants to raise her voice for thousands of silent voices that have been shut off by the Taliban. Her mission is to stand up and support women and their participation in Afghan society. As a young female from Afghanistan, she wants to speak up on behalf of the youth of her country and build a worldwide circle to stand for women's equal rights. She wants all women to have access to education, peace, politics, social activities and sport.
Seth Oldmixon(USA) Strategic Communications Expert
Seth Oldmixon is an award-winning communications professional with over fifteen years planning and executing public affairs campaigns that advance organizational goals with the press, the public, and government officials. Skilled at translating complex stories and ideas into accessible messages that resonate with diverse audiences, Seth provides expertly crafted messaging and strategy for businesses, political campaigns, and advocacy organizations. With deep expertise in digital media, Seth has designed successful integrated communications campaigns for high-profile individuals and organizations, helping them identify key audiences, hone their messages, engage supporters, and change conversations.
A compelling storyteller, Seth’s writing has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, The National Interest, as well as on dozens of blogs and websites. His work has received national recognition at the annual Reed Awards and the American Association of Political Consultants’ Pollie Awards.
Seth is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.
Chris Blackburn (UK) Communications Director- Swiss InterStrategy Group
Chris Blackburn is a political analyst with a strong emphasis on counterterrorism and security. He provides analysis and advice to NGOs, law firms, political campaigns, think tanks, and private organizations.
Since 2001, Chris has worked closely with political leaders and security professionals from around the world. He has briefed US Senators and Congressmen on security-related topics. He has also worked with South Asian policymakers to help provide synergy with European leaders on issues concerning human rights and security.
Chris has given numerous speeches in the Houses of Parliament for the UK’s All Parliamentary Group on Human Rights (PHRG).
He has also provided the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) with briefings on counterterrorism and produced reports for clients working with the DOJ. Early in his career, he worked with the investigative teams for the 9/11 Families United to Bankrupt Terrorism lawsuit. He has also worked with international lawyers on fraud and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) investigations. He provides due diligence research in high-risk areas.
Chris organized the US Intelligence Conference and Exposition (Intelcon) 2005 and the Intelligence Summit(s), two prestigious forums for security and international relations based in the United States of America. Intelcon 2005 was part of the public outreach program for The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission). Senator Slade Gorton and former US Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick helped to organize the conference. Chris facilitated seminars led by leading intelligence leaders from around the world on major reforms to the US intelligence community called, "View from Abroad".
Chris frequently works with journalists, diplomats, and subject specialists. Chris has also worked closely with producers and researchers from major news organizations such as the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) and Channel 4.
Chris has provided information and briefings to journalists from the BBC, The Spectator, The New Statesman, Channel 4, Deutsche Welle, The Epoch Times, Fox News, The Washington Times, Voice of America (VOA), and numerous South Asian media groups.
Chris has been a leading campaigner and activist for the trials of suspected war criminals associated with Bangladesh's War of Liberation in 1971. In 2010, Chris was given an honorary 'Friend of Bangladesh' award by Bangladesh's Ministry of Liberation War Affairs. Chris works closely with the International Crimes Strategy Forum (ICSF) a leading organization specializing in International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and helps organize the European Bangladesh Forum (EBF).
In 2022, Chris was given an honorary letter to acknowledge his work on security and international relations by India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Chris is currently the Communications Director of the Swiss InterStrategy Group (SwissISG) a small consultancy firm based in Zurich, Switzerland which works with diplomats, industry, and political leaders from around the world. We provide confidential advice, legal services, and mediation for our clients.
Paulo Casaca (Portugal) Executive Director- South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF)
Paulo Casaca is the founder and executive director of the South Asia Democratic Forum (SADF); the founder of the international co-operation association registered in Brussels ARCHumankind, ‘Alliance to Renew Co-operation among Humankind’. Founder and senior partner of the consultancy company on sustainable development registered in Brussels, Lessmeansmore- Land and Energy Sustainable Systems (2010-2020), Fellow of the German Marshall Fund of the US in the first semester of 2010.
Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2009 where, namely, he chaired the delegation for relations with NATO Parliamentary Assembly. He was a member of the national parliament in 1992-1993 and a member of the regional parliament of the Azores in 1990-1991. He was a Councillor in the Permanent Representation of Portugal to the European Union from 1996 to 1999, chief of staff of the Minister for Territorial Planning and Public Works in 1995/1996, economics advisor for the socialist fraction in the national parliament in 1989/1990, 1992, 1994/1995.
He was invited to be a professor at the Technical University of Lisbon in 1995-1996, he lectured at the University of the Azores from 1980 to 1987 and in 1991 and in the Accounting High School in Lisbon from 1987 to 1989.
He is the author of several books and reports on economics and international politics. He regularly hosts Afghan scholars and diplomats at SADF events in Brussels.
Homeira Qaderi (Afghanistan)
Writer, Activist, and Educator
Homeira Qaderi is an Afghan writer, activist, and educator. She has written six books, including a collection of short stories and her acclaimed novel Noqra: The Daughter of Kabul River (Rozgar Publishers, 2009). Before leaving Afghanistan, Qaderi taught at Gharjistan University, in Kabul, and worked as a senior advisor to both the minister of education and the minister of labor, social affairs, martyrs, and the disabled.
While at Radcliffe, Qaderi is writing a novel, inspired by her own experiences, titled “The Scent of God.” It tells the story of a girl from the Kabul suburbs who is kidnapped during the Soviet-Afghan war and taken to St. Petersburg. After the fall of the Soviet Union, she returns to her hometown, which is under Taliban rule. The novel follows her experiences living under the Taliban rule and through the American invasion and her eventual immigration to Smyrna, Delaware. As she recovers, she reflects on her forced nomadism with nostalgia.
Qaderi received her PhD in Persian literature from Jawaharlal Nehru University, in India. She was awarded the Malalai Medal—Afghanistan’s highest civilian honor—for exceptional bravery by President Ashraf Ghani. She was a writer in residence at the University of Iowa in 2015. Her first book in English translation, Dancing in the Mosque: An Afghan Mother’s Letter to Her Son (Harper, 2020), was excerpted by the New York Times and chosen by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best nonfiction books of 2020.
Douglas L. Ramsdell (USA)
The son of a First-Class Machinist Mate, LCDR Douglas Ramsdell was born at Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico in 1962. He was raised in Cantonment, FL, and graduated from J.M. Tate High School in 1980. He has an MBA in Business Administration from Averett College, a BS in Business Management from Troy State University, and completed MA in National Security Studies from the Naval War College.
Doug enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an Airman and completed Aviation Electronics Technician “A” and “C” schools at Naval Aviation Technical Training Center (NATTC), Memphis, TN in 1981. He also completed Naval Aircrewman Candidate School, at Pensacola, FL in 1982.
He reported to Patrol Squadron Forty-Eight (VP-48) in Moffett Field, CA, where he served as an Inflight Technician on the P-3 Orion aircraft. During his tour, he completed multiple deployments throughout the Asia Pacific, Northern Africa, and the Middle East. Completing his Sea Tour, Doug reported to the Naval Aviation Depot (NADEP) in Pensacola, FL. There he served as a Flight Test Crew Chief on the H-3 Sea King, H-53 Sea Stallion, H-60 Sea Hawk, and AH-1W Cobra helicopters. In addition, he served as a Co-pilot for the T-2 Buckeye and A-4 Skyhawk aircraft. Doug completed his active-duty service obligation in 1990, attaining ~10,000 flight hours.
Doug joined the private industry and served in various capacities to include Analyst, Program Manager, and Site Lead for Defense Contractors in the Government Sector. Major Commands supported include Central Command (CENTCOM), Africa Command (AFRICOM), and Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
After a ~13-yr hiatus, Doug re-enlisted in the Naval Reserves as an Intelligence Specialist and affiliated with Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in New Orleans, LA in 2003. He was commissioned through the Chief Warrant Officer (CWO) / Limited Duty Officer (LDO) Program as an Intelligence Officer (6455/6835) in 2009; after which he laterally transferred to the Information Warfare (IW) Community as a Special Duty Officer, Intelligence (1835) in 2013.
Doug was deployed to Afghanistan (twice) culminating in 36-mos Boots on Ground. Further, he has been on active duty since 2104 and is soon retiring after 28-yrs active service. His assignments include Joint Intelligence Task Force – Counter-Terrorism (JITF-CT), New Orleans, LA; US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), Tampa FL; Joint Special Operations Command – Strike Force (JSOC – STRK), Afghanistan; Coastal Riverine Squadron Ten (CORIVRON TEN), NAS Jacksonville, FL; Office of the Under Secretary for Intelligence (OUSDI); Washington, DC; and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), Contingency Response Field Office (CRFO), Glynco, GA.
LCDR Ramsdell’s personal awards include the Joint Commendation Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Joint Service Achievement Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal, various campaigns, unit, and service awards. He is a qualified Information Warfare Officer, Anti-Terrorism Officer, Naval Aircrewman, Air Warfare Specialist and earned the Office of the Secretary of Defense Identification Badge.
LCDR Ramsdell has three adult children, Kristen, Shannon, and Ryan, and resides with his wife Terri in Pensacola, FL.
Shermineh Salehi Esmati (Canada)
Friend of Afghanistan
Ms. Esmati is VP of Growth for TODAQ and co-founder of TODAQ USA. At TODAQ
she drives growth and corporate development work with a particular focus on hybrid
cloud, digital identity, and critical energy and commodity supply chains. She presently advises on open source and digital asset standards within Canada, the United States and Europe through the CIO Strategy Council, Standards Council of Canada, ASTM, Trust over IP and Decentralized Identity Foundation. She spearheaded the partnership between TODAQ, Red Hat and IBM, motivated by the need for the TODA protocol to bring its added value to enterprise scale containerization.
“Shermineh’s unbounded energy and instinct for long-term value and opportunity has
accelerated our go to market efforts at a very timely point as the first suite of TODA and
ADOT technologies convert to enterprise-grade products with the TaaS (‘TODA-as-a
service’) API and ADOT Server Product. Introducing new disruptive value to markets requires the right mix of fearlessness, pragmatism, and a relentless focus on how to provide long-term customer value and we’re fortunate to have Shermineh onboard.”. - Hassan Khan, TODAQ CEO.
Before joining TODAQ, Ms. Esmati had built a successful career in blockchain and cryptocurrency regulation with her consulting business Cyrus BC Inc, providing clients (both enterprise and start-up) with strategic corporate partnership, business development, international financial regulatory research, and geopolitical analysis. She had worked for Blockchain Intelligence Group, as the Head of Regulatory Research, providing strategic partnerships, business development, and global regulatory research. Her work met the company’s ambition to support cryptocurrency investigations desired
by clients including high net worth individuals, the banking sector, intelligence, police,
and other government agencies. Shermineh had also formerly served as Head of Strategic
Partnerships for the Blockchain and Climate Institute, which helped shape sustainable blochchain policy for governments in Europe, North America, and multinational organizations. As a
Committee Member on Open Source for the Treasury Board Secretariat of Canada, she
continues to advise on strategic partnerships to innovate while pursuing data security
and inclusivity across borders.
Prior to pivoting to the fintech industry, Ms. Esmati worked at Carleton University, leading a team of researchers on economic and international security policy for clients at the IMF, African Union and Washington-based think tanks focused on big data satellite research. From a young age, Ms. Esmati had an interest in public service and improving the quality of life of those around her reflected in her work, having begun to work for respected Canadian politicians at the age of fifteen. With government degrees from both University of Toronto and Harvard University, Ms. Esmati has demonstrated a track record of commitment to service which she plans to continue to apply in both politics and the private sector.
Asma works at AMS Integrated Solution as an External Relations Manager. As the ER Manager, she leads the company’s external communications and public affairs. She is also responsible for AMS’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), through which she supports the company’s work with vulnerable communities, including women, youth, and persons with disabilities. Prior to joining AMS, Asma served as the Events Manager and later as the Executive Assistant to the Ambassador of Afghanistan in Washington, DC.
Asma was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. Like many Afghans growing up during the civil war, Asma spent most of her childhood in Pakistan as a refugee. Her family left Kabul after the Taliban took over the capital and barred girls from attending schools. Asma and her family returned to Kabul after the 2001 US invasion where she attended high school and obtained a degree in psychology at Kabul University.
Education has become an important part of Asma’s advocacy. She currently supports the Council on Democracy for Afghanistan’s advocacy efforts on education rights in Afghanistan. Asma is also an active volunteer for a number of nonprofit organizations and serves on the board of numerous organizations, including the American Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan.
Press Officer (USA)
Press Officer is responsible for updating the website.
They handle press inquiries and also write and edit releases on behalf of Global Friends of Afghanistan (GFA).
Scott Cooper is a nonresident senior fellow with the Forward Defense practice at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. His research focuses on national security, airpower, defense planning, and the intersection of human rights and national security.
Cooper served for twenty years on active duty in the US Marine Corps, flying the EA-6B Prowler and serving as a forward air controller. He served five tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan, commanded an EA-6B squadron, and finished his service as the speechwriter to the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for aviation.
After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Cooper spent five years at Human Rights First as its national security outreach director, building alliances and partnerships with the military and national security communities. He founded Veterans for American Ideals, a grassroots, community-based group of veterans leveraging military voices to bridge divides and regain a shared sense of national community.
His research and commentary have appeared in many publications, including The Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, Policy Review, the Washington Quarterly, War on the Rocks, Defense One, USA Today, Newsweek, the Hill, and the American Interest. He has appeared on Fox News, CNN, and NPR’s Weekend Edition. He co-authored the book No-Fly Zones and International Security: Politics and Strategy.
Previously, he was an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and is a life member of the think tank. He holds a BS in political science from the US Naval Academy and an MA in international relations from the University of Maryland at College Park. He lives with his wife on Capitol Hill.
Beth Bailey began studying the complex conflict in Afghanistan in 2008 during her undergraduate career at the College of William and Mary. In 2010, she started working as a civilian intelligence analyst with the Department of the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center, where she received numerous awards for her analysis involving the war in Afghanistan.
In 2013, Beth left the intelligence world and began writing a novel, still underway, about the intersection of love and the Afghan war. She started her freelancing career in 2017 and has focused primarily on covering veterans' issues, writing about the history of the Holocaust, telling the stories of warfighters, and combating rising antisemitism. Most recently, she has devoted her writing efforts to covering the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan and telling the stories of Afghans left behind, and the evacuation volunteers who strive to assist them.
Beth's work on Afghanistan can be found in the Washington Examiner, Reason and The Federalist.
Here are some of Beth's recent works:
Mark R. Jacobson (USA)
Dr. Mark Jacobson has over twenty-five years of experience in the U.S. government, international organizations, and academia working on some of the most complex and politically sensitive national security issues facing the United States. He has served as a policymaker, diplomat, academic, and as a uniformed member of the military. He is a recognized expert on U.S. foreign policy, national security, and modern US military history and can explain in clear terms how the U.S. develops foreign and defense policy, including the role of bureaucratic and partisan politics, the role of Congress in these decisions, as well as how it all plays out in the international arena.
He currently serves as the Assistant Dean, Washington Programs at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs where he leads Washington DC-based educational programs for the school. Jacobson is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at Salve Regina University’s Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy and in that role co-authored, Shatter the House of Mirrors, a 2017 report on Russian political warfare. He also co-curates Active-Measures newsletter, a weekly digest of articles on propaganda and disinformation.
Prior to this role, Jacobson served as the John J. McCloy ’16 Professor American Institutions and International Diplomacy at Amherst College where he taught courses on strategy and the history of propaganda and disinformation. He has also held appointments at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. Jacobson’s government service includes appointments as a Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy during the Obama Administration and from 2009-2011 in Kabul, Afghanistan as the first Deputy Senior Civilian NATO Representative and concurrently as the International Security Assistance Force, Director of International Affairs.
Earlier in his career Jacobson served at the Pentagon in multiple civil- service roles and was in his office on September 11, 2001 when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the wing where he worked. On Capitol Hill, Jacobson worked for the late Senator Carl Levin on the staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee and participated in the inquiry into the treatment and interrogation of detainees in U.S. custody. A veteran, Jacobson served as a tactical and strategic human intelligence office in Afghanistan in 2006. In the 1990’s Jacobson held an enlisted role as a U.S. Army Psychological Operations (PSYOP) specialist and deployed to Bosnia in support of Operation Joint Endeavor (1996-1997).
Jacobson speaks regularly on radio, broadcast and cable television networks in the United States and abroad including segments as a commentator and subject matter expert for one-on-one interviews and panel discussions. He has been quoted in major print and online publications and his commentary has appeared in the Washington Post, The Hill, Defense One, POLITICO, Foreign Policy, The Daily Beast, and the Chicago Tribune.
Jacobson grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and holds degrees from the University of Michigan, King’s College, University of London, and a PhD in Military History from The Ohio State University. He lives with his family in Washington DC.
Mrs. Nargis Nehan was born in 1981 in Afghanistan and holds a master’s degree in Business Management and has received international training in the areas of leadership, result-based budgeting, gender budgeting, strategic planning, good governance, peacebuilding, and conflict resolution.
She came from a middle-class family that had to leave the country during the war. They struggled as refugees. Nehan spoke of escaping the war as a child and starting a new life as a refugee in Pakistan. When she realized that her family could not afford to pay for her education, she started working with local NGOs for Afghan refugees to put herself and her siblings through school, ultimately earning a master's degree in business administration. She was working for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) when she got a chance to return to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban. NRC sent her to Kabul to help them set up their office. Later she decided to stay and work with the new government's Assistance Co-ordination Authority.
In 2007 she coauthored a book with Ashraff Ghani Ahmadzai: The budget as a linchpin of the state: Lessons from Afghanistan.
Nehan was a member of the Civil Society Joint Working Group (CS-JWG), the Afghan Coalition for Transparency and Accountability (ACTA), and the Supreme Council of the Central Bank of Afghanistan. She was the first female Member of the Afghanistan Central Bank's Leadership Council.
The Former Afghan Minister for Mines and Petroleum now lives in Norway. In 2022, Nehan declined an invitation to take part in the three-day visit to talks with a Taliban delegation, women activists, and journalists, among others, before meeting Western diplomats in Oslo, Norway.
She speaks Pashtu and English
AMBASSADOR M. ASHRAF HAIDARI (Afghanistan)
M. Ashraf Haidari is the Ambassador of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, and concurrently served as the Director-General of the South Asia Cooperative Environment Program (SACEP) until recently. He was the Director-General of Policy and Strategy of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan from 2015-2018. Prior to this, he served as Afghanistan’s Deputy Chief of Mission (Minister-Counselor) to India for three years. And before this, he was Afghanistan’s Deputy Assistant National Security Advisor for Policy and Oversight the Office of the President. From 2004-2011, Ambassador Haidari served at the Embassy of Afghanistan in the United States in various capacities including Chargé d’Affaires, Deputy Chief of Mission, Political Counselor, and Acting Defense Attaché.
Ambassador Haidari is a writer, analyst, and TV and radio commentator on Afghanistan, regional and international affairs. He has held senior research and visiting fellowship positions at major international think-tanks, including the Institute of National Security Studies of Sri Lanka (INSSSL) in Colombo, the New America (NA) in Washington-D.C., the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) in Kabul, the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and the Delhi Policy Group (DPG) in New Delhi. He holds a Master of Arts in Security Studies (International Security and Development) from the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service in Washington-D.C., and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and International Relations from Wabash College in Indiana. During 2002-2003, Ambassador Haidari was a Fellow in Foreign Service at the Georgetown University Walsh School of Foreign Service.
Ambassador Haidari serves on the board of the Louis and Nancy Hatch Dupree Foundation in New York. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Biruni Institute in Kabul, and previously served on the board of the Roots of Peace in California. Ambassador Haidari is the recipient of several public and academic awards, and his life and achievements have been publicly recognized and featured in international publications. This past December, he received the Global Citizen Award from the Roots of Peace, which recognized his relentless humanitarian diplomacy.
Ambassador Haidari was born and grew up in Afghanistan and shares a personal story that resonates with millions of other ordinary Afghans touched by decades of conflict. He experienced these hardships firsthand both under the Soviet occupation in the 1980s and the Taliban rule in the 1990s. He is married and has one son.
Annie Pforzheimer (USA) former US Diplomat and Scholar
Annie Pforzheimer is a non-resident associate with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). She is currently an adjunct professor at the City University of New York and a commentator and advocate on foreign policy matters. A retired career diplomat with the personal rank of minister counselor, Annie was the acting deputy assistant secretary of state for Afghanistan until March 2019, and from 2017 to 2018 was the deputy chief of mission in Kabul. With a focus on security, rule of law, and human rights during a 30-year career in the Foreign Service, Annie directed the implementation of the 2014 U.S. Strategy for Engagement in Central America at the National Security Council; the Office of Andean Affairs in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs during Colombia’s peace process and the emerging Venezuela crisis (2015–2017); and the Bureau of International Organization Affairs’ Office of Peace Support Operations, Sanctions, and Counterterrorism. She led the $1 billion rule of law program (the Mérida Initiative) in Mexico and was the political counselor at the U.S. Embassies in Afghanistan and El Salvador. She is a graduate of Harvard University and holds an MA in security studies from the National War College.
Mina Sharif was born in Afghanistan. When she was less than a year old, her family was forced to flee and eventually immigrated to Canada where she was raised.
In early 2005, she traveled back to Afghanistan as a volunteer media trainer, working with radio stations throughout the country. Mina Sharif had a variety of experiences in Afghanistan including media training for street children, developing and disseminating campaigns in support of the ANDSF, and directing two seasons of Baghch-e-Simsim, the Afghan version of Sesame Street. She is the founder of Sisters 4 Sisters, a mentorship program for women and girls in marginalized communities. She also developed and produced Voice of Afghan Youth, a TV and radio series highlighting the accomplishments of Afghan children throughout the country. Mina has traveled to thirty provinces in Afghanistan and spent nearly 15 years in the country.
Currently, Mina is involved in numerous volunteer initiatives including content development to serve the Afghan diaspora, leading fundraisers for aid distribution, peace advocacy, and leading the Durkhanum Sewing Circle for women breadwinners in Kabul.
Sitarah Mohammadi advocates for the rights and protection of people in Afghanistan with the European Union, UNHCR, as well as the United Nations. She is the spokesperson at the World Hazara Council. Sitarah is a commentary contributor to Guardian Australia and writes on issues of human rights, Afghanistan and refugees. She is the Vice President of the Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network. Sitarah has also demonstrated her deep commitment to effecting positive social change in her community and beyond through her work with many organisations in Australia and internationally. Sitarah was recently awarded the 2022 Young Voltaire Human Rights Award by Liberty Victoria, one of Australia's most prominent human rights organisations. Sitarah is currently undertaking her Juris Doctorate in Law at Monash Law school in Australia.
Sitarah recently co-authored a chapter in the volume of Migrant Australia: From Botany Bay to Manus Island. Sitarah has worked as a Legal Researcher with Afghanistan Human Rights Democracy Organisation. In 2019, Sitarah pursued post-graduate studies as a Provost Scholar at the University of Oxford, where she undertook International Relations and Politics and completed her dissertation on Australia's refugee policy. Sitarah obtained her BA in International Relations and Human Rights from Monash University, Australia.
Sitarah was born in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime in the late 1990s, and she was told that women and girls were second-class and didn’t need an education. Like millions of girls in Afghanistan, Sitarah shares a personal story that resonates with all women and girls in Afghanistan whose lives were turned upside down by the return of the Taliban in August 2021.
Sahraa Karimi is an Independent Film Director, and a screenwriter from Afghanistan. On 15 August 2021 she was forced to leave Afghanistan due to the sudden and unexpected fall of Kabul and the return of the Taliban to power. Currently, she is a Visiting- Professor at Centro Sperimentale di Cinematographia ( Rome National Film School) in Rome, Italy.
She belongs to the second generation of Afghan migrants in Iran. When she was 17 years old, she immigrated to the Slovak Republic. In August 2012 she returned to Kabul, established her own Film Production Company Kapila Multimedia House to support Afghan independent filmmakers and artists.
Sahraa Karimi has received her PhD Degree in the field of Cinema (Fiction Film Directing & Screenwriting) from the Academy of Music and Performing Arts, Film and TV Faculty in Bratislava, Slovakia (FTF- VSMU).
She is the first and only woman from Afghanistan, who has a PhD degree in the field of Cinema. She is also the only Afghan filmmaker, who is an active member of the Slovak Film and TV Academy.
Sahraa Karimi has about 30 short fiction and documentary films in her filmography, which she has made during her study in VSMU from 2002 to 2012. Her films were successful internationally and were broadcasted through ARTE France, BBC, Slovak TV, and other European broadcasting channels. She is also the winner of many important international Film Awards such as the Slovak National Film and TV Award, Bilbao Int. Documentary and Short Film Festival-Spain, One World Doc. Film Festival- Slovakia, Sole Luna Film Festival- Italy, Morodas Doc Film Festival- Italy, DIDOR Film Festival-Tajikistan, Dhaka International Film Festival- Bangladesh, Cine Film Festival, Montereau, France, and many other significant film festivals around the world. She was also a member of the jury of many important International Film Festivals around the world including the Head of Jury of Stockholm International Film Festival, Sweden, November 2021.
Her film “Afghan women behind the wheel” got about 25 prizes from important film festivals around the world and her short fiction film “Light breeze” got an academy award from Slovak Film and TV Academy as a best short fiction film. Her documentary film “Parlika, a woman in the land of men” had its European premiere at One World Festival in Bratislava, Slovakia in October 2016 and was the winner of the best Slovak documentary and Also the film recieved the award for the best documentary film from 16th Dhaka International Film Festival 20018 in Bangladesh.
Her first fiction feature film "Hava, Maryam, Ayesha" was shot entirely in Kabul with Afghan actresses and had its world premiere at Venice Film Festival in 2019. It was Afghanistan's entry for Oscar in 2019. The film has participated in more than 50 film festivals around the world and has received numerous awards including Cigle D'or, Cine – Festival En Payes De Fayence, France, 2021.