Afghanistan 2020

Wednesday, December 11 @ 6:00 pm8:00 pm

The Elliott School of International Affairs
1957 E Street NW
Lindner Family Commons — 6th Floor
Washington, DC

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Afghan laborers enjoy tea on a roadside after a day’s work in Kabul, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 30, 2011. The war-torn country still faces the challenges of poverty, unemployment and a lack of infrastructure. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

Register Here!

Rise to Peace is presenting a compelling panel on the future of Afghanistan’s political environment on December 11, 2019, from 06:00 pm to 8:00 pm at the Elliott School of International Affairs of the George Washington University.

Experts will contend with domestic questions such as the delayed result of the presidential elections as well as the increase in Taliban-linked violence in the country. Relations between Kabul and Washington —stalled peace talks, recent prisoner swap with the Taliban, U.S. troop withdrawal and paths forward — will feature prominently and lead to valuable discussions. Rigorous discourse over the role of regional actors, including Pakistan, Russia and China, will investigate their possible motivations for enhanced dialogue with Kabul as well as the Taliban. The investigation into ISIS activity within Afghanistan and if any lessons learned from the wider counterterror operation against the group could be applied to the country will be addressed. Hear from distinguished experts as they discuss the possibilities and challenges involved in the country’s resolution towards peace and its goal to implement a democratic model by 2020.


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Jonathan S. Landay


Jonathan S. Landay, an award-winning journalist is a senior national security correspondent for Thomson Reuters. When worked with McClatchy/Knight-Ridder, Landay was ambushed with U.S. Marines in a remote village in Kunar province of Afghanistan and survived the Battle of Ganjgal. He is featured in a new film, “Shock and Awe,” Rob Reiner’s latest political drama chronicling a group of journalists working for Knight Ridder newspapers in the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. In his current post, he covers terrorism, nuclear weapons, and arms control policies, with a close focus on US foreign policy toward Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. He frequently visits Afghanistan, where he travels unilaterally and embeds with US and Afghan forces. Landay has spent much of his 30 years career on the ground chronicling ethnic, religious and political conflicts in Asia, the Middle East, and the Balkans. He covered the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in China, the wars of former Yugoslavia, the Sept. 11 attack, the 2001 US-led intervention in Afghanistan and the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

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Said Sulaiman Ashna


Said Sulaiman Ashna is an award-winning Afghan-American journalist covering Afghanistan for over a decade. Mr. Ashna is a TV/Radio reporter at Voice of America, a News Writer/Editor with TOLO TV of Afghanistan, and a Group Program Manager at Arman FM 98.1. Formerly worked as the Assistant Managing Director and a News Director at Shamshad TV and as well as Managing Editor and Editor-in-Chief at Lemar TV.

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Dr. Marvin G. Weinbaum


Dr. Marvin G. Weinbaum is the Director for Pakistan Studies at The Middle East Institute. He has experience working at the University of Illinois and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He worked at the University of Illinois for 15 years as the director of the Program in South Asian and Middle Eastern studies, focusing on national security, democratization, and politics of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has contributed to the publication of 6 books and has written more than 100 journals and articles. He has also served as a Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace and was awarded a Fulbright Research Fellowship for Egypt in 1981–82 and Afghanistan in 1989–90. Areas of expertise include state-building, political culture, political economy, and national security in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Dr. Weinbaum has a BA from Brooklyn College, an MA from the University of Michigan, and a Ph.D. from Columbia University.

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Ahmad Shah Mohibi


Ahmad Shah Mohibi is the founder of Rise to Peace. Ahmad previously spent over a decade assisting the US mission to rebuild Afghanistan. First, he aided the United States Army in various capacities to train and equip the Afghan forces. He later acted as an advisor with the State Department in the establishment of the Justice Center in Parwan and facilitated the transfer of detainees set to face the special tribunal. Ahmad retains links with the US and Afghan governments to provide expertise and insight on all Afghan-related subject matter, primarily the peace process with the Taliban. He is often consulted to provide analysis in the media. Ahmad remains an active human rights campaigner through his support for community engagements around the world and his involvement with diverse humanitarian causes. President Obama and President Karzai have recognized his achievements. He holds a Master in International Policy and Practice from George Washington University and a BA in Government and International Politics from George Mason University.



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Michael R. Sherwin


Michael R. Sherwin, an Assistant United States Attorney with the U. S. Department of Justice, has extensive experience in national security investigations and counterterrorism cases. Prior to becoming a federal prosecutor, Michael was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, where he served throughout the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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Kristyn Hartwyk


Kristyn Hartwyk is an international development professional currently working as an Analyst at The World Bank. In addition, she is a graduate student at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs pursuing an M.A. in International Development Studies, where she is specializing in conflict and youth protection in complex, fragile situations. Prior to The World Bank, Kristyn worked as a Business Intelligence Analyst at U.S. News & World Report in Washington, D.C. and PHD Media in New York City. She holds a B.A. in Information Systems from Loyola University Maryland where she graduated in 2016. Kristyn has written detailed, concise feasibility analyses, business canvas models and financial projections for Rise to Peace that have led to successful award competitions.

Capacity Building and Mentorship Project


Rise to Peace has been instrumental in designing and managing a mentorship and capacity building project in Afghanistan, aimed at empowering young individuals and promoting women’s empowerment. Our project focuses on providing essential skills and knowledge in various fields, including human resources, policy and planning, procurement, and computer literacy, through educational internships.


Afghanistan has experienced the devastating consequences of terrorism and violent extremism, leaving the lives of its people marred by violence and instability. It is crucial to offer the youth of Afghanistan an opportunity to actively contribute to our collective efforts in understanding the dynamics of violent extremism and finding effective solutions to counter it. By empowering young academics across the country, we enable them to share their unique insights into the threat of violent extremism and propose prospective solutions, ultimately working towards a sustainable resolution to the ongoing violence.

We have undertaken extensive research, both in the field and academically, which has been disseminated and published within Afghanistan and the United States. This research helps policymakers gain a deeper understanding of the main challenges associated with the Afghan war.

At the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul, Rise to Peace organizes panel discussions on the causes of violent extremism and strategies to address them. These discussions bring together leaders from diverse sectors and institutions in Afghanistan to engage in constructive dialogue. The panel takes into account recent developments, such as the government’s outreach to the Taliban, the current U.S. policy towards South Asia, and upcoming elections in Afghanistan. Additionally, the panel addresses how these challenges can potentially contribute to the radicalization of youth, thereby undermining the emerging peace process.

Rise to Peace also hosted a significant peace symposium in Kabul on June 27, 2018. This symposium saw the participation of experts from parliament, academia, civil society, and the High Peace Council. They examined the current situation, including peace talks, presidential elections, proxy wars, corruption, and other pertinent issues impacting peace in Afghanistan. The symposium resulted in recommendations on how to effectively address these challenges.


Given the recent developments in Afghanistan with the Taliban’s return to power and the imposed ban on education for Afghan women, it is crucial for us to continue advocating and engaging the international community on the importance of free education and freedom of the press for Afghan women and girls. Here are some ways you can support our efforts:

  1. Raise Awareness: Share information about the situation in Afghanistan and the restrictions placed on education and freedom of the press for women and girls. Utilize social media platforms, organize awareness campaigns, and engage with local and international media to highlight the issue.
  2. Contact Your Representatives: Reach out to your local representatives, government officials, and international organizations to voice your concerns and urge them to take action. Write letters, make phone calls, or participate in meetings and rallies to advocate for the rights of Afghan women and girls.
  3. Support NGOs and Humanitarian Organizations: Contribute to and collaborate with organizations that are actively working to promote education and press freedom for Afghan women. Donate funds, volunteer your time and expertise, or provide resources to support their programs and initiatives.
  4. Collaborate with International Partners: Engage with international partners, including governments, non-profit organizations, and advocacy groups, to form alliances and coordinate efforts to address the issue. Collaborative actions have a greater impact and can exert more pressure on decision-makers.
  5. Empower Local Activists: Connect and support Afghan activists and organizations on the ground who are working tirelessly to promote education and press freedom. Offer mentorship, resources, or platforms to amplify their voices and provide them with the necessary support to continue their advocacy work.
  6. Fundraising: Organize fundraising events or campaigns to raise funds specifically dedicated to supporting education initiatives for Afghan women and girls. These funds can be used to provide scholarships, educational resources, and support programs for those affected.
  7. Engage in Diplomatic Efforts: Encourage your government to address the issue of education and press freedom for Afghan women and girls in diplomatic discussions and negotiations with the Taliban and other relevant parties. Advocate for these rights to be upheld and protected in any diplomatic agreements or aid packages.
  8. Stay Informed and Educate Others: Stay updated on the situation in Afghanistan, the progress being made, and the challenges faced. Educate yourself and others about the importance of education and press freedom in empowering women and promoting social progress.

By coming together and advocating for the rights of Afghan women and girls, we can work towards ensuring their access to education and press freedom, even in challenging circumstances. Together, we can make a difference and support the aspirations and potential of Afghan women and girls.

The Hello Project

Join us in our social movement of “Hello.” The purpose of our activity is to bring communities together around the world. Our team of volunteers “Hello” to strangers on the streets, and at school, work, and everywhere they go to promote relationships between communities and to spread the message of hope, change, and peace to the people of the world.


The Afghan Peace Process

Rise to Peace held its first-panel discussion in Kabul, Afghanistan, despite the risk of violence and Taliban threats, where locals, experts, and students discussed the immediate need for peace and stability in the country followed by policy recommendation for the United States, the Afghan government, and the international community.


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Mirdad Khan Nejrabi


Mirdad Khan Nejrabi is the Secretary of the Wolesi Jira (House of People) at the National Assembly of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Formerly worked as the Chairman for defensive and territorial integrity commissioned and prior to becoming a parliament member, he worked at the Ministry of Interior Affairs, in which he served in different senior leadership national security matters.

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Mirza Mohammad Yarmand


Mirza Mohammad Yarmand is the former deputy director of Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI). He currently works as an advisor to the National Security office. You can learn more about him on this NY Times article.

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Sayed Ihsan Taheri


Sayed Ihsan Taheri appointed Spokesperson and Strategic Communications Director of Executive Secretariat for Peace Process.

Previously, he has worked as Head of Secretariat for the Private Sector Development Executive Committee, Head of Government Communications and Public Awareness at the Office of Administrative Affairs and Council of Ministers Secretariat and Head of Government Monitoring and Evaluation Authority.

Mr. Taheri is also awarded Ambassador for Peace to Afghanistan by the Universal Peace Federation Europe Office in 2009.

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Jawid Kohistani


Jawid Kohistani is a former military officer and intelligence official. Javid Kohistani, a political scholar.

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Faizullah Jalal


Faizullah Jalal was born is a law professor and political science at Kabul University and a critic of the Afghanistan National Unity Government. His wife, Massouda Jalal was the first women presidential candidate and the former minister for women affairs. Click hereto learn more.

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Masood Ahmad Azizi


Major General Masood Ahmad Azizi is an AfghanPolitician and Deputy Minister at Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI) Azizi previously served as the Chief of Staff of the Governor of Nangarhar and Kandahar.

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Ahmad S. Mohibi

Founder, Rise to Peace

Ahmad Shah Mohibi is the Director of Research, Counter-Terrorism. He brings more than 12 years’ experience working with the United States and Afghan governments alongside the international community to help in a concerted mission–to combat terrorism and encourage democracy and stability in tumultuous regions.

Click here to learn more

Afghanistan in 2020: Is Peace Possible?

Presented by: Rise to Peace

Co-sponsored by and held at:

The United States Institute of Peace, 2301 Constitution Ave, N.W.

Rise to Peace, in conjunction with the United States Institute of Peace, is presenting a compelling panel on the future of Afghanistan’s political environment on April 25, 2018, from 2:30 to 4:30 pm at the United States Institute of Peace.

Hear from distinguished experts as they discuss the possibilities and challenges involved in the country’s resolution towards peace and its goal to implement a democratic model by 2020. The following questions are just an example of the complicated issues we will tackle.

  • Is such an endeavor possible?
  • What internal and external geopolitical forces will ultimately shape Afghanistan’s future?
  • Can talks with the Taliban lead to peace in Afghanistan?
  • Is it possible for the Taliban to become a legitimate and mainstream political force?
  • What role, if any, will the United States play in Afghanistan going forward and what might be some factors for motivation or for avoidance?

Our distinguished panel of experts include:

Our distinguished panel of experts include:

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Ambassador Timothy Carney

Ambassador Timothy Carney is a career diplomat, Ambassador Carney served the State Department in Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, South Africa, and Lesotho in addition to acting as the United States Ambassador to Sudan (1995-1997) and Haiti (1998-1999). Prior to that, Ambassador Carney was involved in several UN peacekeeping missions, including UNTAC in Cambodia, UNOSOM II in Somalia, and UNOMSA in South Africa, and served on President George Bush’s National Security Council staff. Since his retirement, he has remained active in the Middle East. He spent six months in Afghanistan in 2009 leading a U.S. government team to support the elections there.









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Professor John Wood

John Wood is an Associate Professor at NDU’s Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. Previously, he served as the National Security Council’s Senior Director for Afghanistan, from 2007 to 2009, as the Pentagon’s Assistant Deputy Director for Politico-Military Affairs – Asia, on the Joint Staff, and as an Armor officer in the US Army, retiring as a Colonel. Professor Wood is also the co-author of From Kabul to Baghdad and Back: The U.S. at War in Afghanistan and Iraq.













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Courtney Cooper

Courtney Cooper is a career civil servant who most recently served on the National Security Council staff as director for Afghanistan, leading a range of U.S. policy efforts and advising senior White House officials on South Asia political issues. Since 2005, she has worked in various foreign policy roles within the government on international trade, economic development, and national security issues, including postings in South Asia. Cooper holds BA degrees in political science and international affairs from the University of Arizona and a MA in international affairs from George Washington University











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Johnny Walsh

Johnny Walsh is a senior expert on Afghanistan, focusing on the Afghan peace process. Mr. Walsh has served as a diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, most recently as the lead advisor on the Afghan peace process in the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs. He was also the senior policy advisor for South Asia, the Middle East, and counterterrorism at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations. From 2010-2014, he worked on Afghanistan and Pakistan in various capacities at State, including an assignment in Kandahar at the height of the U.S. troop surge. Mr. Walsh has extensive additional experience on Iraq (including a year at U.S. Embassy Baghdad), Yemen, the Arabian Peninsula, and North  Africa.












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Ahmad Shah Mohibi

 Ahmad Shah Mohibi is founder and president of Rise to Peace. He brings more than 12 years’ experience working with the United States and Afghan governments alongside the international community to help in a concerted mission – to combat terrorism and encourage democracy and stability in tumultuous regions. Ahmad has traveled to remote areas of Asia and the Middle East, from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Turkey, and Tajikistan, to Mongolia; as well as countries in Africa, to conduct humanitarian work. He started working at the age of 15, supporting the U.S. Government’s “Operation Enduring Freedom”. Ahmad is an International Relations Analyst and regularly provides commentary to humanitarian and international media outlets including TOLOnews, Ariana News and Voice of America. He regularly speaks at discussion panels on U.S. policy and foreign relations to engage the public and share his expertise and knowledge on Afghanistan, the Middle East, and counter-terrorism. He is a regular participant in community gatherings, where he engages with the growing community of individuals interested in finding solutions to civil and political injustices.









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Michael R. Sherwin, Moderator

Michael R. Sherwin, an Assistant United States Attorney with the U. S. Department of Justice, has extensive experience in national security investigations and counterterrorism cases. Prior to becoming a federal prosecutor, Michael was an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy, where he served throughout the Middle East in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom.


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