Afghanistan: The Reconciliation Option

Click here for a full transcript of Amb. Richard Olson’s prepared keynote remarks.

Watch the event video below or click here.

U.S. commanders characterize the fight against the Afghan Taliban as a “stalemate.” As U.S. national security leaders and Congress evaluate strategic choices in Afghanistan, the discussion has narrowly focused on military options and troop levels. The Stimson Center hosted Ambassador Richard Olson who detailed what an alternative approach, a reconciliation option, might look like in Afghanistan. Shamila Chaudhary, former Director for Pakistan and Afghanistan on the National Security Council (2010-2011), offered comments, Sameer Lalwani, Deputy Director of the South Asia program, moderated the discussion, and Stimson Center President Brian Finlay convened the event.

WHAT: An on-the-record discussion with Amb. Richard Olson examining U.S. strategy and policy options in Afghanistan.


Ambassador Richard Olson served in the U.S. foreign service for almost 35 years, retiring with the rank Career Minister in November 2016. He was the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from November 2015 to November 2016. Prior to that, he was U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan from 2012 to 2015, served as the Coordinating Director for Development and Economic affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul from 2011 to 2012, and was U.S. Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates from 2008 to 2011. He was also Deputy Chief of Mission at the United States Mission to NATO and has served in Mexico, Uganda, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, and Iraq. 

Shamila Chaudhary is a Senior South Asia Fellow at the New America Foundation. She specializes in U.S.-Pakistan relations, Pakistan domestic politics and security policy, and regional issues in South Asia. She is also Senior Advisor to Dean Vali Nasr at the School for Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University. She 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 from 2010-2011. She also worked on Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Sri Lanka at the political risk consulting firm Eurasia Group from 2011-2013.

Brian Finlay is the President and CEO of the Stimson Center. His areas of expertise include nonproliferation, transnational crime, counter-trafficking, supply chain security and private sector engagement. Finlay is also an Adjunct Instructor in the School of International Service at the American University in Washington. Prior to joining Stimson, Finlay served four years as executive director of a Washington-based lobbying initiative focused on counterterrorism issues, a researcher at the Brookings Institution, and a program officer at the Century Foundation. He has also worked with Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Sameer Lalwani is a Senior Associate and Deputy Director for Stimson’s South Asia program. His research interests include nuclear deterrence, inter-state rivalry, crisis behavior, counterinsurgency, civil-military relations, ethnic conflict, nuclear security, and the national security politics of South Asia and the Middle East. Previously, Lalwani was a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow at the RAND Corporation, a fellow at George Washington University’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, and a policy analyst with the New America Foundation. He is also a Research Affiliate at MIT’s Center for International Studies. 

Image: U.S. Marines Photo by Cpl. Logan E. Riddle via Flickr
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