USIP-PSA South Sudan Briefing

Thursday, November 21th – The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) hosted a discussion on the impact and ramifications of the government transition in South Sudan and the future of U.S.-South Sudan relations. This discussion featured Susan Stigant from USIP and Joshua Meservey from The Heritage Foundation and […]

PSA-USIP Briefing on Afghan Negotiations

Tuesday, September 17th – United States Institute for Peace (USIP) and Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) hosted a panel discussion featuring Scott Worden, Director of Afghanistan and Central Asia Programs at USIP, and Luke Coffey, Director of the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation. This panel discussed how the Afghan negotiations […]

U.S.-Afghanistan Relations Post-Election: What Now?

Monday, October 7th – With U.S.-Taliban peace talks stalled and the future course of the peace process unclear, Afghans will head to the polls on September 28 to elect a president. Ashraf Ghani has focused his peace strategy on winning a second term and then negotiating with the Taliban with a renewed democratic mandate. Opposition […]

China-Russia Cooperation in Global Hotspots

Thursday, July 18th – United States Institute for Peace (USIP) and Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) hosted an off-the-record lunch briefing on the Hill to discuss the growing partnership between China and Russia and this coordination’s impacts on U.S. interests. Regional experts Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Senior Fellow and Director of the Transatlantic Security Program at […]

Private Dinner Discussion on Afghanistan

On May 8th, United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) held an off-the-record invite-only dinner to discuss the current status of U.S. diplomatic and military engagement in Afghanistan. Regional experts General John Nicholson (Ret.), Commander of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (2016-2018), and Dr. Andrew Wilder, Vice President of Asia […]

Major Shifts in Ethiopia: What It Means for America & the World

On March 25th, United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and Partnership for a Secure America (PSA)

Countering Russia’s Assertive Foreign Policy

On November 30, Partnership for a Secure America and the United States Institute of Peace hosted an off-the-record briefing on Russia’s increasingly assertive foreign policy and the role of Congress in guiding future relations between the U.S. and Russia.  Ambassador Bill Taylor, Executive Vice President at USIP, was joined by Dr. Michael Carpenter, former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia, to discuss the strategic implications of Russia’s foreign policy that includes the use of disinformation campaigns, hybrid warfare tactics in Ukraine and Georgia, and intervention in violent conflicts like Syria and Afghanistan.  This discussion was moderated by Cory Welt, Analyst in European Affairs at the Congressional Research Service.


Ambassador Bill Taylor

William B.Taylor

William B. Taylor is the executive vice president at the U.S. Institute of Peace.  Earlier, he was the special coordinator for Middle East Transitions in the U.S. State Department.  He oversaw assistance and support to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Syria.  He served as the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009.

He also served as the U.S. government’s representative to the Mideast Quartet, which facilitated the Israeli disengagement from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.  He served in Baghdad as the first director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office from 2004 to 2005, and in Kabul as coordinator of international and U.S. assistance to Afghanistan from 2002 to 2003.  Ambassador Taylor was also coordinator of U.S. assistance to the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. He earlier served on the staff of Senator Bill Bradley.

He is a graduate of West Point and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and served as an infantry platoon leader and combat company commander in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and Germany.

 


Dr. Michael Carpenter

carpenter michael

Dr. Michael Carpenter is a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center. He is also senior director of the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Carpenter is a former deputy assistant secretary of defense with responsibility for Russia, Ukraine, Eurasia, the Balkans, and Conventional Arms Control. Prior to joining the Department of Defense, Dr. Carpenter served in the White House as a foreign policy adviser to Vice President Joe Biden and as director for Russia at the National Security Council. Previously, he was a career foreign service officer with the State Department, where he worked in a number of different positions, including deputy director of the Office of Russian Affairs, speechwriter to the undersecretary of political affairs, and adviser on the South Caucasus. Dr. Carpenter also served abroad in the US Embassies in Poland, Slovenia, and Barbados.

During his career at the State Department, Dr. Carpenter received four Superior Honor Awards and three Meritorious Honor Awards. He holds an MA and PhD in political science from the University of California at Berkeley and a BA in international relations from Stanford University. Dr. Carpenter was a Fulbright scholar at the Polish Academy of Sciences and has received fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, MacArthur Foundation, and IREX Foundation for his academic research.

 


Cory Welt

Cory Welt is Analyst in European Affairs in the Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade Division of the Congressional Research Service. He covers Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and the Caucasus. Previously, he was Associate Director and Research Professor of International Affairs at the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, where he co-directed the Program on New Approaches to Research and Security in Eurasia (PONARS Eurasia) and taught courses on post-Soviet Eurasian politics and security (2010-2016). He also has been associate director of the Eurasian Strategy Project at Georgetown University and deputy director and fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Elections in Nigeria: A New Hope for Peace and Governance?

On November 1, Partnership for a Secure America and the United States Institute of Peace hosted an off-the-record briefing on Nigeria’s consequential upcoming elections.  Oge Onubogu, Senior Program Officer of Africa Programs at the United States Institute of Peace, was joined by Christopher O’Connor, Senior Program Officer for West Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy, to discuss the implications of Nigeria’s upcoming elections on the future of democracy, peace and corruption in the country.  This event was moderated Lauren Ploch Blanchard.


Oge Onubogu

Oge Onubogu is senior program officer for Africa Programs at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) where she leads programming in Nigeria. In this position, she provides leadership, strategic management, and oversees the design and implementation of projects to promote inclusion and community security by partnering with policymakers, civic leaders, and organizations in Nigeria and the broader Lake Chad Basin area. Oge’s thematic focus is on governance and civil society development in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Prior to joining USIP, she managed governance, citizen engagement, and election observation programs in Nigeria and across Southern Africa (Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, and South Africa) with the National Democratic Institute (NDI). Before that, she worked as program officer for West Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) where for several years, she oversaw democratic governance projects and managed a multi-million dollar grants portfolio to civil society organizations in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Cameroon. Oge has consulted for the World Bank, observed elections with the Carter Center, and coordinated refugee resettlement programs with the International Rescue Committee. She earned her MA in International Development from the Heller School at Brandeis University, and BA in International and Area Studies from the University of Oklahoma.

 


Christopher O’Connor

Christopher O’Connor is the Senior Program Officer for West Africa at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a private, nonprofit foundation dedicated to the growth and strengthening of democratic institutions around the world. Christopher oversees a diverse civil society grants program in Nigeria that aims to strengthen democracy, improve human rights, and consolidate peace. He also works on West Africa regional, Liberia, and Ghana governance projects. Prior to joining NED, Christopher served as an International Development Fellow with Catholic Relief Services in Abuja, Nigeria, where he worked on peacebuilding and good governance projects. He received his MA in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and his BA in African, Asian, and Russian History from Washington and Lee University.

 

 

 


Lauren Ploch Blanchard

Lauren Ploch Blanchard is a Specialist in African Affairs with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), where she provides nonpartisan analysis on African political, military and diplomatic affairs, and on U.S. policy in the region, to Members of Congress, congressional committees, and congressional staff. Her portfolio focuses on East Africa, Nigeria, and Chad, and on security issues and U.S. military engagement on the continent—she has written extensively on these topics and has testified before Congress on terrorist threats in the region, security assistance, and the U.S. military’s Africa Command.

Ms. Blanchard speaks regularly at academic and official institutions such as the National Defense University, the NATO Defense College, and the Foreign Service Institute, and at international policy forums. She has served on international election observation missions in several African countries and has conducted training for African parliamentarians and other government officials on the policymaking role of the United States Congress and on the role of parliamentary research institutions like CRS.

Prior to joining CRS, she managed governance programs in East and Southern Africa. During that time, she supervised and conducted training on political party and coalition strengthening, parliamentary support, civil society capacity building, and public opinion research. She also consulted on constitutional reform efforts in Kenya and the development of democratic institutions in Southern Sudan. Previously, Ms. Blanchard served as Legislative Assistant in the United States Senate. Lauren holds a master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.  She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Classical Studies, with a minor in African Studies, from the University of Florida.

The New Great Powers Proving Ground: Africa & The Red Sea

On October 25, Partnership for a Secure America and the United States Institute of Peace hosted an off-the-record briefing on the strategic implications for U.S. interests around the Middle East powers’—Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and Turkey—increasingly aggressive competition for influence in the Horn of Africa alongside an expanding Chinese and Russian presence.  The discussion was led by Payton Knopf, Advisor to the Africa Program at the United States Institute of Peace and former Spokesman for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, and Farha Tahir, program officer at National Endowment for Democracy.  Congressional Research Service Specialist in African Affairs, Lauren Ploch Blanchard,  moderated.


Payton Knopf

Payton Knopf is an advisor to the Africa program where his work focuses on the intersecting political, economic and security dynamics in the Red Sea. He is concurrently an advisor to the European Institute of Peace.

Knopf is a former U.S. diplomat with expertise in sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa, and the Middle East. Immediately prior to joining USIP, Knopf was the first coordinator the United Nations Panel of Experts on South Sudan, from its inception in 2015 until April 2017. He was also formerly a senior advisor at the Crisis Management Initiative (CMI)/Martti Ahtisaari Centre and the PeaceWorks Foundation.

Before leaving government, he was spokesman at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations under then-Ambassador Susan E. Rice, having previously served as a policy advisor to U.S. Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell. From 2006 to 2008, he was based at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, where he advised the then-U.S Special Envoys for Sudan Andrew Natsios and Richard Williamson on issues related to the conflict in Darfur and to the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement for Sudan.

His other State Department assignments included in the Office of Egypt and the Levant and at the U.S. Consulate General in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  He was an International Affairs fellow in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations from 2010-2011 where is researched focused on diplomatic engagement with non-state armed groups.


Lauren Ploch Blanchard

Lauren Ploch Blanchard is a Specialist in African Affairs with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), where she provides nonpartisan analysis on African political, military and diplomatic affairs, and on U.S. policy in the region, to Members of Congress, congressional committees, and congressional staff. Her portfolio focuses on East Africa, Nigeria, and Chad, and on security issues and U.S. military engagement on the continent—she has written extensively on these topics and has testified before Congress on terrorist threats in the region, security assistance, and the U.S. military’s Africa Command.

Ms. Blanchard speaks regularly at academic and official institutions such as the National Defense University, the NATO Defense College, and the Foreign Service Institute, and at international policy forums. She has served on international election observation missions in several African countries and has conducted training for African parliamentarians and other government officials on the policymaking role of the United States Congress and on the role of parliamentary research institutions like CRS.

Prior to joining CRS, she managed governance programs in East and Southern Africa. During that time, she supervised and conducted training on political party and coalition strengthening, parliamentary support, civil society capacity building, and public opinion research. She also consulted on constitutional reform efforts in Kenya and the development of democratic institutions in Southern Sudan. Previously, Ms. Blanchard served as Legislative Assistant in the United States Senate. Lauren holds a master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.  She also holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Classical Studies, with a minor in African Studies, from the University of Florida.


Farha Tahir

Farha Tahir is a program officer at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), where she supports grantmaking to civil society organizations and human rights defenders in sub-Saharan Africa.

Prior to joining NED, Farha served as a senior program officer at the National Democratic Institute (NDI), where she worked on programs with government officials and civil society groups to strengthen governance and citizen engagement in decisionmaking. She also worked as a research associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), providing research support and developing policy recommendations to support US foreign policy priorities. She remains an adjunct fellow with CSIS’s Human Rights Initiative, where she advises on drivers of closing political space, and also writes the Somalia and Somaliland case studies for Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World report.

Farha holds both undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin.

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