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 Executive Board
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.
Jelena Bjelica, Co-Director and Senior 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.
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.
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.