March 10, 2017, 12:00 pm - April 15, 2024, 8:09 am


Middle East Institute
1319 18th St NW
Washington, District of Columbia 20036 (Map)

National security leaders in Congress and U.S. allies in the region are looking to President Trump to set a course for action in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kabul's fight against the Taliban is reportedly in a stalemate, and policymakers are considering an increase of U.S. and international military forces. Neighboring Pakistan is also combating militancy, and Trump has expressed concern about the country's nuclear arsenal.
In light of ongoing challenges, is it time for a comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan? If the White House wants to break with past policy, what alternatives does it have? Can a change in U.S. policy affect the likelihood of a negotiated peace with the Afghan Taliban? And how do U.S. domestic politics and public opinion affect these decisions?
The Middle East Institute (MEI) hosted Shamila Chaudhary (SAIS), Lisa Curtis (Heritage Foundation), Daniel Feldman (Akin Gump), and Jack Gill (National Defense University) for a discussion of the choices and options confronting President Trump in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Marvin Weinbaum (MEI) moderated the discussion.

Shamila Chaudhary
Senior South Asia Fellow, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
Shamila Chaudhary specializes in U.S.-Pakistan relations, Pakistan domestic politics and security policy, and regional issues in South Asia. She is senior advisor to the dean at the School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University and is a senior South Asia fellow at New America. She worked on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka at the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group from 2011 to 2013. She also has twelve years of experience working in the U.S. government, most recently at the White House as Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan on the National Security Council staff, 2010-2011. Prior to her appointment at the NSC, she worked on the Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff, where she advised Secretary Clinton and the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke on Afghanistan and Pakistan. Chaudhary served earlier on the State Department’s Pakistan Desk (2007-2009) and covered economic, humanitarian response, and development issues on the Indonesia desk (2004-2007).

Lisa Curtis
Senior Research Fellow, The Heritage Foundation
Lisa Curtis focuses on U.S. national security interests and regional geopolitics as senior research fellow on South Asia in The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Her research centers on the U.S.-India strategic and defense partnership, U.S. counterterrorism policies in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and trends in Islamist extremism and religious freedom throughout the region. Lawmakers and journalists alike turn to Curtis for her clear-eyed research and perspective on U.S. interests in some of the most desperate, dangerous, and fast-developing parts of the world.  She has testified before Congress on about 20 occasions regarding topics related to India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Islamist extremism, and America’s image abroad. Curtis has commented on developments in South Asia during appearances on major broadcast and cable networks, including CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, CBS, PBS, and BBC. She also has been quoted or cited by dozens of news publications.

Amb. Daniel Feldman
Akin Gump
Daniel Feldman is a partner in the international trade practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. As the Secretary of State’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan 2014-15, he was the key diplomatic strategist for policy formulation and implementation, including the successful mediation of the Afghan presidential electoral impasse. He was the Deputy Special Representative for five years prior, serving as a principal advisor to Secretaries Kerry and Clinton and was the highest ranking official at the State Department responsible for relations with the two countries. He represented the United States at multilateral forums treating Afghanistan and Pakistan arranged by the United Nations, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Food Programme. For more than six years, he oversaw all U.S. economic growth initiatives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the promotion of private-sector investment, regional trade efforts, and the appropriation of billions of dollars of foreign assistance.

Jack Gill
Associate Professor, National Defense University
John H. Gill is a professor at the National Defense University and an associate professor at the Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C.  A former U.S. Army South Asia foreign area officer, he retired as a colonel in 2005 after more than 27 years of service. Prior to joining the NESA Center, Gill worked on South Asia issues in the Pentagon from 1998-2001, including work on the 1999 Kargil crisis. During his time at the NESA Center, he also served as special assistant for India/Pakistan to the plans and policy director of the U.S. Joint Staff and as military advisor to Ambassador James Dobbins, the U.S. envoy to the Afghan opposition forces (2001-02). From August 2003 to January 2004, Gill served in Islamabad as the liaison officer to the Pakistan Army for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. He has been working on South Asia issues from the intelligence and policy perspectives since the mid-1980s, in positions with the U.S. Joint Staff, the U.S. Pacific Command staff, and other assignments.

Marvin Weinbaum, moderator
Director, Center for Pakistan Studies, MEI
Marvin Weinbaum is a scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute and professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He served as analyst for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1999 to 2003. His research, teaching, and consultancies have focused on issues of national security, state building, democratization, and political economy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author or editor of six books and has written more than 100 journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Weinbaum was awarded Fulbright Research Fellowships for Egypt and Afghanistan and was a senior fellow at the United States Institute of Peace.