The Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) is an independent non-profit policy research organisation. It aims to bring together the knowledge, experience and drive of a large number of experts to better inform policy and to increase the understanding of Afghan realities. It is driven by engagement and curiosity and is committed to producing analysis on Afghanistan and its region, which is independent, of high quality and research-based. Our aim is to be bi-taraf but not bi-tafawut – impartial, but not indifferent.
Since its establishment in 2009 AAN’s publications have informed and influenced the work of policymakers, journalists, academics and development workers working on Afghanistan. AAN’s analysts are regularly asked to speak at conferences and briefings around the world, and frequently appear as commentators in the media.
Since its establishment AAN has operated on core funding in order to safeguard the independence of its reporting. Funding has been provided by:
• 2009: The government of Sweden;
• 2010: The governments of Sweden and Norway;
• 2011-2014: A donor consortium of four donors led by the Embassy of Sweden, on behalf of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Royal Danish Embassy and the Netherlands Embassy.
The current funding covers the period from 1 February 2011 to 31 January 2014
The Afghanistan Analysts Network is registered in Germany as an association (‘eingetragener Verein’, e.V.) with registration number VR28652B, and as a non-profit research organisation at the Ministry of Economy in Kabul under registration number 341, dated 17.6.1388.
The institutional structure of AAN consists of the three co-directors and founders, a Kabul-based core team of analysts and researchers, and a network of contributors with long-standing expertise in the fields of Afghan politics, governance, rule of law, human rights, security, and regional affairs. AAN has a permanent office in Kabul.
AAN’s Advisory Board is made up of prominent personalities who have been, and remain, closely involved in Afghanistan.
AAN’s publications include in-depth thematic reports, shorter policy briefings, quick discussion papers and dispatches from the field. AAN’s publications are widely read and often quoted. All of AAN’s research and analysis is publicly available and can be found on the AAN website.
AAN’s Executive Board consists of three co-directors.
The Executive Board is responsible for AAN’s overall research agenda, management and fund-raising. The co-directors also serve as senior analysts and contribute extensively to AAN’s research.
Martine van Bijlert (@mvbijlert)
Martine van Bijlert is co-director and co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. She grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran (1972-78). As an adult she has since then spent well over a decade working and living in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
Martine studied Sociology of Non-Western Societies at Leiden University in the Netherlands (1988-94) Her interest in the region was rekindled when she visited Quetta to study the situation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan (1990 and 1992/3).
She subsequently worked as Community Development Officer for MEDAIR in Grozny (1995) and Kabul (1997-1998); as an Asylum Officer for the Immigration and Nationalisation Service in the Netherlands (1996-1997 and 1999-2000); as Political Secretary for the Netherlands Embassy in Tehran (2001-2004); as Political Adviser to the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan in Kabul (2004-2008); and since 2008 as an independent analyst on Afghanistan, still largely based in Kabul. In 2009, she co-founded the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
Martine has published widely, travelled extensively through Afghanistan, and is fluent in Dari.
Sari Kouvo is co-director and co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. She is an international lawyer with a focus on human rights, transitional justice, rule of law, justice reform and gender.
Besides her engagement with AAN, Sari teaches international law and related subjects at universities in Sweden, Belgium and the UK.
She has previously worked as Head of Program at the International Centre for Transitional Justice (2007-2011), researcher at Amnesty International (2007), Human Rights and Rule of Law Adviser to the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan (2004-2006) and lecturer at Gothenburg University (1999-2004).
Sari holds a doctorate in International Law from Gothenburg University (Sweden). She has held visiting fellowships at the NATO Defence College (Italy), Kent University (UK), Abo Academy (Finland) and the Australian National University.
In 2009, she co-founded the Afghanistan Analysts Network. Sari has published extensively on Afghanistan, international law and gender-related subjects.
Thomas Ruttig (@aantru)
Thomas Ruttig is co-director and co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. He has a degree in Asian Studies (Afghanistics) from Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany) and has spent well over a decade working in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In 1988/89 and 2000-06 Thomas was permanently based in the region.
He was a diplomat at the GDR Embassy in Kabul (1988-89) and later worked as a political affairs officer for two UN mission in Afghanistan (2000-03). This included assignments as UNSMA head of office in Kabul, adviser to the Afghan Independent Emergency Loya Jirga Commission and UNAMA head of office in Islamabad and Gardez.
He then worked as the Deputy to the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan (2003-04); and as a Political Adviser to the German Embassy in Kabul (2004-06).
He started his professional career at the Afghanistan/Pakistan desk of the GDR Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1985-88).
From 1989 to 2000, Thomas worked as a journalist, with a focus on development and Central Asian affairs, including Afghanistan.
From 2006 to 2008, he joined the German think-tank Stiftung Wissenschaft and Politik (SWP) as a Visiting Fellow.
Since 2008, he has been working as an independent political analyst, author and consultant. In 2009, he co-founded the Afghanistan Analysts Network.
Thomas speaks Pashto and Dari fluently.
AAN’s Advisory Board is made up of prominent personalities who have been, and remain, closely involved in Afghanistan.
The Advisory Board members are:
Dr Bernt Glatzer †
ethnologist and executive board member of the German Afghanistan Research Group (AGA)
former Resident Representative of UNODC Afghanistan
Resident Representative of the Agha Khan Development Network (AKDN) to Afghanistan
Ambassador Francesc Vendrell
former EU Special Representative for Afghanistan, Chairman
Ambassador Ann Wilkens
Chairperson of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan's Advisory Board; former Swedish Ambassador to Afghanistan and Pakistan
AAN analysts and researchers:
Kate Clark (@KateClark66)
Kate Clark has worked as Senior Analyst for the Afghanistan Analysts Network since May 2010 and is now head of the Kabul office.
Her involvement in Afghanistan goes back to 1999 when, as the BBC Kabul correspondent, she was the only western journalist based in the country. She reported on massacres, drought and war – and football matches and tourism, travelling widely on both sides of the frontline.
Kate was expelled by the Taleban in early 2001, but returned as a frontline reporter during the 2001 war, contributing to award-winning coverage. After 2002, Kate was based in London, but continued to return to Afghanistan to report on the country, making radio and television documentaries about the insurgency, the political economy of weapons smuggling and opium, and war crimes.
Her previous publications include joint authorship of the Chatham House paper No Shortcut to Stability: Justice, Politics and Insurgency in Afghanistan, and for AAN, The Takhar attack: Targeted killings and the parallel worlds of US intelligence and Afghanistan, and The Layha: Calling the Taleban to Account.
Kate has an MA in Middle Eastern Politics from Exeter University in Britain and previously worked in the BBC Arabic Service. She has also lived, studied and worked in the Middle East.
Fabrizio Foschini is a Political Analyst with the Afghanistan Analysts Network. He studied History of Asia at the University of Bologna in Italy, and achieved his PH.D focusing on the modern and contemporary history of Afghanistan, a country where he researched and travelled extensively since 2003.
He participated in the EC/UNDP Access to Justice at District Level monitoring program in 2003-2004, and later returned to the country for long periods to carry out academic field research in Kabul and Badakhshan province.
Fabrizio has published extensively on Afghanistan and he is fluent in Dari.
Gran Hewad (@Granhewad)
Gran has worked with AAN since its inception in 2009. While at AAN, Gran has covered: elections, Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, peace talks, economics and youth initiatives. Prior to joining the Afghanistan Analysts Network as a researcher, Gran Hewad had worked in Afghan government posts.
Upon graduating from Kabul University with a BA in Economics, Gran spent three years in the Afghan parliament starting in 2005. From 2008 to 2009, Gran worked for the Ministry of Education.
Obaid Ali (@ObaidAli18)
Obaid joined AAN in 2010. He holds a Bachelors in civil engineering from Ahmad Shah-e Abdali University in Peshawar.
Obaid is currently completing a Political Science degree from Ibn-e Sina University in Kabul.
He has contributed a number of publications on political affairs, political parties, security transition to state forces, human rights, women rights and social affairs in Afghanistan to AAN.
Borhan Osman (@Borhan)
Borhan is a journalist-turned researcher with a decade-long career in journalism and writing.
His areas of interest include: Islamic movements/entities, religion and society.
He speaks Arabic and is fan of several other languages.
Wazhma joined AAN as a researcher in 2012 where she conducts research on several issues, particularly the rights of women.
Wazhma graduated from American University of Central Asia in Bishkek- Kyrgyzstan and Bard College of America.
She has a Bachelors International Comparative Politics.
Ehsan Qaane (@ehsanqaane)
Mohammad Ehsan Qaane holds a Bachelors of Law from the Katib Institute of Higher Education, where he published his thesis: “Mechanisms of Dealing with the International Crimes in the International Law”.
As a Researcher for AAN, Ehsan contributes to political research and reporting through daily media monitoring and independent research focusing on political parties, human rights and transitional justice.
Prior to AAN, Ehsan served as the National Coordinator for the International Center for Transitional Justice’s (ICTJ) Afghanistan Program, from 2010 to 2011. He was responsible for ICTJ’s in country programming including civil society networking and working with victims’ organizations and human rights documentation.
Ehsan has also served as a member of the research team with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), assisting with the forthcoming conflict-mapping report, the first Afghan-led documentation of human rights violations from 1978-2001.
Ehsan served as a senior trainer for human rights and transitional justice with the Civil Society and Human Rights Network (CSHRN), an umbrella organization for civil society groups focused on human rights and rule of law in Afghanistan.
Ehsan co-authored “The Handbook on Transitional Justice”, an official training manual for civil society, the first of its kind written by and for Afghans.
Christine Roehrs (@ChristineRoehrs)
Christine Roehrs is a German political scientist and journalist with nine years experience in Afghanistan. She joined AAN in May 2013.
Christine started covering Afghanistan for Berlin-based newspaper Der Tagesspiegel in 2004. She has been based in Afghanistan since 2009, where she has worked for a variety of organisations, including GIZ, the German governmental aid agency, an Afghan NGO, an international NGO and the Afghan government. From 2009 to 2011, she trained Afghan journalists.
In 2011, she joined the High Peace Council as Senior Advisor for Strategic Communication. Her time at the HPC was followed by a position as Senior Advisor Outreach at Save the Children International.
Christine has travelled extensively across the country and speaks Dari.
Deedee Derksen (@deedeederksen)
Deedee Derksen is AAN’s Senior Policy and Communication Adviser..
She is also pursuing a PhD on commander networks in Afghanistan for the King’s College London’s War Studies Department, due to be finished in 2014. She has published papers on the reintegration of insurgents for the U.S. Institute of Peace and the Peace Research Institute Oslo.
Ms. Derksen first arrived in Afghanistan in 2006 as a correspondent for the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant and television programme NOVA. Her work for the newspaper was nominated for the main journalism award in The Netherlands. Her book on her experience as a journalist in Afghanistan was also shortlisted for a prestigious Dutch award.
What we stand for
AAN’s work is driven by the wish to contribute to Afghanistan’s well being through research, analysis and the publication of our findings. In doing so we focus on the following fields:
War, peace and politics
Many of Afghanistan´s immediate conflicts, as well as the opportunities for their resolution, are linked to the country’s internal politics and the use and abuse of power. A greater understanding of political dynamics can help reduce polarisation, inform more thoughtful international partnering and encourage politics that can mitigate both the causes and consequences of violence and exploitation.
Economy and development
A stable Afghanistan will largely depend on the establishment of a healthy economy, reduction of poverty, curtailing of exploitation, strengthening of the rule of law and a more needs-oriented and Afghan-driven development co-operation. This calls for greater insight in the nature of Afghanistan’s economy and the ways in which it impacts both conflict and stability.
The democratic space
A tolerant, pluralistic society with robust institutions remains the strongest foundation for a stable and peaceful future. The challenges posed by poverty, insecurity, political rivalries, and the tension between tradition and modernism are significant, but they cannot be an excuse for intolerance, political exclusion, the violation of basic rights, the absence of redress for abuses, or the continued marginalisation of women, minorities and those without wealth or connections.
The role of the region
The international intervention in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taleban has been disproportionately based on a Western perspective. There is a need to pay much greater attention – both analytically and in terms of realistic policymaking – to the role of countries in the region and the potential for both co-operation and destabilisation.
Commitment to Afghanistan
Although often well intentioned, the international intervention in Afghanistan has suffered from the multitude of diverging agendas and interests – between nations and institutions, and between the various military and civilian strands of the intervention. Projects and policies have often been driven by domestic considerations of donor countries and far-removed from the realities on the ground. As a result, the impact of all the efforts has been relatively limited compared to the size of the investments, and its durability questionable. Learning the lessons of the past should inform better policymaking in the future.
Basing our involvement on a long-term commitment to Afghanistan and a respect for the Afghan people, AAN aims to provide a perspective that focuses on Afghan realities, facilitates constructive policies and allows the learning of important lessons. In doing so, we aim to be bi-taraf but not bi-tafawut – impartial but not indifferent. This is the cornerstone of AAN´s existence.