The institutional structure of AAN consists of a three-member Executive Board, a core Kabul-based team, other members of staff based outside the country and a network of guest contributors. They bring together 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 where the Country and Deputy Country Director, researchers and AAN’s administration and finance, and support teams are based.
AAN’s Executive Board is responsible for the overall research agenda, management and fund-raising. The Executive Board members also serve as senior analysts.
The AAN Team
Thomas Ruttig, Co-Director and Senior Analyst @thruttig
Thomas Ruttig is a co-founder and co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. He has worked on and in Afghanistan since he graduated in Afghan Studies from Humboldt University, Berlin (Germany) in 1985: as a GDR diplomat, including at the GDR Embassy in Kabul (1985-89), as political affairs officer for two United Nations missions in Afghanistan (2000-2003, including as UNSMA head of office Kabul, adviser to the Afghan Independent Emergency Loya Jirga Commission and UNAMA head of office Islamabad and Gardez), deputy to the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan (2003-2004); political adviser to the German Embassy in Kabul (2004-06), visiting fellow at the Berlin think-tank Stiftung Wissenschaft and Politik (SWP; 2006-2008) and independent political analyst, author and consultant, including as advisor to the Netherlands’ PRT in Uruzgan province (2008-2009). He has altogether spent more than 13 years in Afghanistan and speaks Pashto and Dari.
Thomas also has extensive experience as a foreign news editor and freelance journalist, mainly on Afghanistan, Central Asia, foreign affairs and development issues (1989-2001). He has published on a wide range of subjects, with a focus on Afghanistan’s political forces, democratic development and peace. He regularly writes for German and other newspapers, mainly Berlin daily taz (die tageszeitung), and also blogs about Afghanistan in German, under Afghanistan Zhaghdablai.
At AAN, Thomas focuses on war&peace issues, elections, democratic rights and political parties and Afghanistan’s modern political history. He has also written on poverty, migration, the environment, Afghanistan’s mineral resources and its postal system, Loya Jirgas, Afghans in World War I, Afghan-Bukharan, Afghan-Central Asian and German-Afghan relations.
Kate Clark, Co-Director and Senior Analyst @KateClark66
Kate Clark has worked at AAN since 2010. She was Country Director (2014-16) and has been a co-director since 2017. Kate’s interest in Afghanistan began in 1991 when she went to Peshawar in Pakistan on holiday and spent time with Afghan refugees there. In 1999, she was posted to Kabul as the BBC correspondent – at the time the only western journalist based in the country. She reported on drought and war, but also on football and tourism, travelling widely on both sides of the frontline. Kate was expelled by the Taleban in early 2001, but returned to cover the 2001 war, contributing to award-winning coverage.
After 2002, Kate was based in London, but returned to make radio and television documentaries about the insurgency, weapons smuggling, opium and war crimes. At AAN, Kate focuses on the war, including civilian casualties, the Afghan Local Police and ‘campaign forces’ and detention and torture. She has also written on Afghanistan’s plants, birds and the environment.
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, Researcher @obaidali18
Obaid joined the Afghanistan Analysts Network in 2010 and since 2012, has focused on northern Afghanistan, its political affairs, human rights, security and insurgency, including work on the Taleban and other Afghan and foreign militant groups. Before joining AAN, he worked as a research assistant on the reintegration and reconciliation of Taleban, funded by the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan in Kabul.
Obaid holds a Bachelor in Political Science and International Relations from Avicenna University, Kabul (2014), for which he wrote a monograph, “Political Party and National Identity in Afghanistan.” He speaks Dari, Pashto, English and Urdu.
Ehsan Qaane, Country Director and Researcher @EhsanQaane
Ehsan Qaane joined the Afghanistan Analysts Network in 2012 and is AAN’s Country Director. He holds a Bachelor in Law and is currently writing a thesis on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and Afghanistan for his Masters in Law.
Ehsan covers political and legal issues for AAN, focusing on political parties, Afghan law, human rights, transitional justice and the ICC. In 2015-16, he took a sabbatical, working at the ICC in the Hague for six months as a visiting professional.
Before joining AAN, Ehsan was the National Coordinator for the International Center for Transitional Justice’s (ICTJ) Afghanistan programme where he was responsible for ICTJ’s in-country programming – human rights documentation, networking with civil society and working with victims’ organisations (2010-12). Ehsan was a member of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s team researching the ‘Conflict Mapping Report’, the first Afghan-led documentation of human rights violations from 1978-2001 (as yet, unpublished) (2009-10). Ehsan also served as a senior trainer in human rights and transitional justice with the Civil Society and Human Rights Network, an umbrella organisation for civil society groups focused on human rights and the rule of law in Afghanistan (2007-12).
Ehsan co-authored “The Handbook on Transitional Justice”, a training manual for civil society, the first of its kind written by and for Afghans. He is published in both English and Dari.
Sudhanshu Verma, Communications Officer @s_vrma
Sudhanshu Verma joined AAN in 2013 as the communications officer. He holds a Bachelors degree in Mass Media from Mumbai University, India, and an MA in Political Communications from the University of Kent in the UK. Before joining AAN, Sudhanshu worked with the corporate communications team of JSW Group and before that, was a trainee at the world’s largest advertising media company, Group M.
Sudhanshu’s academic focus has been on communications and decision-making. His master’s thesis was an effort to develop a game theory model to study decision-making during crisis communications. He also takes a keen interest in the role of narratives in institutional decision-making.
Jelena Bjelica, Co-Director and Analyst @jb_aan
Jelena joined the Afghanistan Analysts Network as an analyst in October 2015 and she was elected by the AAN General Assembly as a co-director in November 2019.
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 the UN, Jelena worked as journalist. She spent ten years covering Kosovo, Macedonia and South Serbia regions, for a number of publications from southeastern and central Europe, including establishing a Serbian language fortnightly newspaper in Prishtina, Kosovo. She has published two books on human trafficking and organised criminal networks in the Balkans and Central Europe. In 2003 she received the Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Award for her reporting on human trafficking in the Balkans. Her academic publications have also looked at organised crime and the subversion of international aid. Jelena holds an MA in journalism from Cardiff University. She has published in Serbian, French, Albanian and English.
Fazal Muzhary, Researcher @muzhary
Muzhary joined the Afghanistan Analysts Network in 2015 as a researcher and has written extensively about the insurgency, the Taleban and local defence forces/militias. He went to school in his home district of Andar in Ghazni province and is currently studying for a BA in Political Science and Public Administration at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF).
Muzhary’s background is in journalism (beginning in 2006). He has travelled to various provinces in Afghanistan, working as a reporter for The New York Times and other international media and Pajhwok Afghan News. He has carried out investigative reporting, book research, conducted surveys and, working for lawyers, investigated cases of torture.
Muzhary speaks and writes Pashto, Dari, English and Urdu.
Ali Yawar Adili, Deputy Country Director and Researcher @ali_adili
Ali Yawar Adili joined the Afghanistan Analysts Network in 2016 and since 2019, he has been its Deputy Country Director. He specialises in elections, electoral reform and political groups and coalitions in Afghanistan.
Prior to joining AAN, he worked with the UNDP-ELECT Project (2014-16) and before that, as an international member of staff with UNHCR in Baghdad, Iraq (2012-14). Ali has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)-Afghanistan (2007-12) and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (2006-07) and has contributed as a columnist and political analyst to various Afghan daily newspapers including Daily Outlook Afghanistan and Daily Open Society.
Ali obtained his Bachelor’s degree in International Relations from Kateb University in Kabul in 2011 and is currently writing a dissertation comparing identity politics in Afghanistan and Iraq for a Master’s Degree in International Relations at Ibn-e Sina University, Kabul. Ali speaks Dari, English and Urdu.
Ali Mohammad Sabawoon, Researcher @AliSabawoon
Ali Mohammad Sabawoon began working as a researcher for AAN in 2017 and writes mainly about security in southern Afghanistan. Previously, he worked with Sayara Strategies as a Strategic Communication Manager in Kabul, where he was responsible for public outreach in a ‘Countering Violent and Extremism’ (CVE) project in Helmand province. He has also worked as a regional governance advisor with DAI/LGCD (2007-09), as the IDP operation assistant with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in 2004-05, office manager with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), senior monitoring and research officer with Oxfam GB (2002-03) and as a teacher in Afghan refugee camps in Quetta with Save the Children US (1997-02). He also worked with the United Nations news agency, IRIN news, as a stringer, reporting from southern Afghanistan and Quetta in 2006.
Sabawoon holds a Masters in International Relations from the Balochistan University in Quetta, Pakistan. In 2012, he translated the university textbook “Political Science” from Urdu to Pashto; it has gone to two reprints. Sabawoon speaks Pashto, Dari, English, Urdu and Arabic and writes poetry and short stories in Pashto.
Said Reza Kazemi, Researcher
After an internship in mid-2012, Said Reza Kazemi maintained contact as a guest contributor and joined AAN as a researcher in August 2018. He is interested in methods of research as they apply to the study of society and politics in contexts such as Afghanistan.
Reza is a PhD candidate at Heidelberg University and has submitted a dissertation, “Narrating and Practicing Family: An Ethnography of an Afghan Transnational Family”. He holds an MA in Politics and Security in Central Asia from the OSCE Academy in Bishkek (2011-12) and a BA in Journalism, Psychology and English Literature from Bangalore University in India (2006-9). Reza’s academic publications have focussed on elections in western Afghanistan and Afghan transnational families.
Reza has worked as visiting researcher in the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (2013) and as a monitoring and evaluation coordinator and a human rights interpreter in the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission for several years (2003-06 and 2009-10).
Rohullah Sorush, Researcher @rsurush
Rohullah joined the Afghanistan Analysts Network in November 2017 and is AAN’s parliamentary reporter. He also focuses on women’s issues.
Rohullah is a medical doctor and dentist; he graduated from Kabul Medical University and also holds an MD in dentistry.
Before joining AAN, Rohullah worked as a researcher for the International Crisis Group (2012-2017), contributing to the reports ‘The future of Afghan National Unity Government’, ‘The future of Afghan Local Police’, ‘Afghanistan’s Political Transition’ and ‘Afghanistan’s Insurgency After the Transition’.
Khadija Hussaini, Researcher @hussaini_kh
Khadija holds a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (2018), from the Asian University for Women, Bangladesh. This included research on women’s rights and status in Afghan constitutional and civil law. After graduation, Khadija worked with the Programme and Protection Unit of the Norwegian Refugee Council and as a researcher with Porsesh Research and Studies Organization where she contributed to the writing of “A Survey of Hindus and Sikhs of Afghanistan”.
Khadija joined AAN in 2019.
Sayed Asadullah Sadat, Research Assistant @saidasadullah1
Asadullah joined the AAN research team in early 2020. He has graduated from the Sharia and Law Faculty of Salaam University (BA) and also studied information technology at Kardan University. He is also a civil society activist with a focus on his home region, Afghanistan’s southeast.
Former AAN Executive Board members
Martine van Bijlert @mvbijlert
Martine is a co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. She also served as AAN co-director from 2009 to 2017.
Martine grew up in pre-revolutionary Iran and studied the Sociology of Non-Western Societies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Her interest in the region was rekindled when she visited Quetta, first as a volunteer at a dental clinic for Afghan refugees in 1990 and later to study the return and new arrival of refugees in 1992-93.
Since graduating, she has worked as a community development officer for MEDAIR in Grozny, Chechnya (1995) and Kabul (1997-98), with stints as an asylum officer for the Immigration and Nationalisation Service in the Netherlands in between; as political secretary at the Netherlands Embassy in Tehran (2000-04); political adviser to the European Union Special Representative for Afghanistan in Kabul (2004-07); and, after that, as an independent analyst on Afghanistan.
Over the years, Martine has focused on Afghanistan’s local politics, in particular in Uruzgan and surrounding provinces, the political economy, including the Kabul Bank scandal, elections and the possibilities for peace and reconciliation.
Martine has published widely, travelled extensively throughout Afghanistan and is fluent in Dari. She is also a photographer and a novelist.
Sari is a co-founder of the Afghanistan Analysts Network and served as AAN co-director from 2009 to 2019. Since 2004, Sari has shared her time between work in Afghanistan, international civil society organisations, the European Union and academia.
Sari holds a permanent position as Associate Professor of International Law and Senior Lecturer in Legal Theory in the Department of Law at Gothenburg University in Sweden. She has held visiting fellowships and lectured at various universities, including the Australian National University, Kent University, NATO Defense College, Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Åbo Academy University and Birkbeck University of London.
Sari has published widely on issues relating to international law, human rights, transitional justice, gender and Afghanistan.
Former AAN researchers and analysts:
Over the years, a number of analysts and researchers have worked at AAN who have gone on to other posts, but whose insight and expertise can still be found in publications on the AAN website. These include: Salima Ahmadi, Fabrizio Foschini, Gran Hewad, Lenny Linke, Borhan Osman, Christine Roehrs and Qayoom Suroush.
AAN’s Advisory Board consists of three figures who have been and remain closely involved in Afghanistan. They are:
Ambassador Francesc Vendrell
Former United Nations and European Union 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)
German ethnologist, was a member of AAN’s original advisory board.