Kabul wasn’t on my radar at the beginning of my final MID semester, but an offer from an ambitious and influential think tank called the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS) with solid government ties changed my mind. I have been in Kabul for four months at the time of writing and have grown accustomed to the dynamics of life here – work hard and play little. I work and reside at AISS which occupies a restored 19th century fort and feels much like a monastery. Our operational staff does all chores and since no time is spent on logistics I have a lot of hours at hand. Our director is a hardworking man and our workweek is 6 days, sometimes more. We have so far held two major international conferences of some 150 participants each, one on Afghanistan in the ancient city of Herat, and the other on Afghanistan and Central Asia. My research focuses on Sino-Afghan relations, China’s foreign policy in Central Asia, Afghan – Central Asian relations, and Afghanistan’s economic development. I write for both AISS as well as international online outlets, mainly the Diplomat so far.
I have two major projects coming up: one on visual mapping of corruption at selected government institutions, and another one on the Heart of Asia Process. The former intends to build on models of Transparency International (TI) and Global Integrity (GI). If designed and executed correctly this project could make headlines. In the mean while I have spoken on TEDx Kabul and am invited to speak at a few think tanks worldwide over the next few months.
At AISS I hope to contribute somewhat to the reconstruction of this impoverished nation. Now that I am here I realize how much difference it makes to understanding the intricacies of development in the field vs. writing about development from a fancy office in an advanced economy.
By Richard Ghiasy, Alumnus of 2011 lass