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.
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.
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 Executive Board consists of four 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.
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 Defense College (Italy), Kent University (UK), Abo Academy (Finland) and the Australian National University.
Sari has published extensively on Afghanistan, international law and gender-related subjects.
Thomas Ruttig (@thruttig)
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), a background of 12 years (1989-2000) work as a foreign news editor and free-lance journalist specialising on Afghan, Central Asian development affairs and has spent over 10 years 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).
From 2006 to 2008, he joined the German think-tank Stiftung Wissenschaft and Politik (SWP) as a Visiting Fellow, and since 2008, he has been an independent political analyst, author and consultant.
Thomas speaks Pashto and Dari fluently.
Kate Clark (@KateClark66)
Kate Clark has worked as Senior Analyst for the Afghanistan Analysts Network since May 2010 and was AAN’s Country Director 2014 – spring 2016.
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.
Obaid Ali (@ObaidAli18)
Obaid joined AAN in 2010. He holds a Bachelors in Political Science from Avicenna University, Kabul. Since spring 2016, he is Head of AAN’s office.
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.
Martine van Bijlert: Co-founder (@mvbijlert)
Note: Martine van Bijlert stepped down as AAN co-director in September 2017. Martine is the co-founder of AAN and served as the co-director from 2009 to 2017. She remains as a member of AAN.
Martine van Bijlert is co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. She grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran (1972-78), studied Sociology of Non-Western Societies at Leiden University in the Netherlands (1988-94) and has since then spent over 12 years working and living in Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan.
Her interest in the region was rekindled when as a student 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.
Martine has published widely, travelled extensively through Afghanistan, and is fluent in Dari.
AAN’s Advisory Board is made up of prominent personalities who have been, and remain, closely involved in Afghanistan.
The Advisory Board members are:
Ambassador Francesc Vendrell
Former UN and 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
Former Resident Representative of UNODC Afghanistan
Dr Bernt Glatzer (†2009), a Heidelberg-based ethnologist, was a member of AAN’s original advisory board.
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.
Fazal Muzhary joined Afghanistan Analysts Network in 2015. Previously, he worked as a reporter with the New York Times in Kabul and other international media outlets. He has been in journalism since 2006. He has also done investigative reporting and helped book research with renowned international authors and writers on Afghanistan. He is studying political science at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). He speaks Pashto, Dari, English and Urdu.
Jelena Bjelica (@jb_aan)
Jelena Bjelica joined Afghanistan Analysts Network as a researcher in October 2015. Between 2010 and 2014 she worked with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Afghanistan and later with the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University (ACKU).
Before joining UN, she worked as journalist. She spent ten years covering Kosovo, Macedonia and South Serbia regions, for a number of publications from Southeast and Central Europe. She established the Serbian language fortnightly in Prishtina (Kosovo), and published two books on human trafficking organised criminal networks in the Balkans and Central Europe.
Her recent academic publications include: Beyond ‘Symbolic Annihilation’: Serbian Media Discourse on Kosovo Albanians, Suedosteuropa Journal (forthcoming); Organised crime and international aid subversion: evidence from Colombia and Afghanistan, Third World Quarterly (2015); Human Trafficking and National Security in Serbia, in Migrations and Media, Moore, K., Gross, B. Threadgold, T. (eds.), Peter Lang Publishing Group (2012). She holds MA in journalism from Cardiff University.
Jelena was honoured the Press Freedom Award by Reporters without Borders in 2003.
Ali Yawar Adili (@ali_adili)
Ali Yawar Adili joined AAN as a researcher on 10 April 2016. He worked with UNDP-ELECT Project from 1 October 2014 to April 2016. Prior to joining UNDP, he worked as an international staff with UNHCR-Baghdad, Iraq for two years from July 2012 to September 2014. Ali worked with National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)-Afghanistan for around four and half years from December 2007 to June 2012. Before that, he also worked with Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) for a year. He has also contributed as columnist and political analyst to daily newspapers such as the Daily Outlook Afghanistan (English) and Daily Open Society.
Ali got his Bachelor’s degree in the field of Political Sciences/International Relations from Kateb University, Kabul in 2011. He wrote his monograph on “The Impacts of Ethnic Diversity on Political Development in Post-Taliban Afghanistan.” He is currently writing his dissertation on “A Comparative Review of Identity Politics in Afghanistan and Iraq” for his Master’s Degree in the field of International Relations from Ibn-e-Sina University, Kabul.
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.
Since its establishment AAN has sought to operate on core funding in order to safeguard the independence of its reporting.
2010: The Swedish government funding was supplemented by funding from the Norwegian government.
2011 – 2014: AAN’s four-year programme “Afghanistan’s Transition: Unpacking Local, National and Regional Dynamics” was funded by a donor consortium led by the Swedish Embassy in Kabul, with Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands.