Sarah Chayes


Sarah Chayes is internationally recognized for her innovative thinking on corruption and its implications. From 1996 to 2001, Chayes worked as NPR’s Paris correspondent and was awarded the 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards for her work during the Kosovo crisis. She covered the fall of the Taliban in 2001, which led her to leave her career in journalism in 2002 to help rebuild the country, settling in Kandahar. In 2005, Chayes founded a manufacturing cooperative in Kandahar called Arghand, which allowed men and women to work together to develop skin-care products. Later, Chayes served as a special assistant to the top U.S. military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. This work was focused on governance issues and allowed her to participate in high-level decision-making on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab Spring. At the end of the early 2000s, Chayes worked as a special adviser to two commanders of the international troops in Afghanistan (ISAF). After this, she became a senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, working for the Democracy, Conflict, and Governance program. She is the author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. You can find more information about Chayes and her work on this website.

“Afghanistan: The Bridge to Everywhere”

This talk examines the ways in which Afghanistan is to Pakistan what Ukraine is to Russia. Both Afghanistan and Ukraine are strategically important states for reasons many do not consider. When thinking about the strategic importance of these states, many immediately think of the role of hydrocarbons. While this resource does hold strategic importance to Afghanistan, Ukraine, and their surrounding neighbors, these states’ physical geographies hold much larger significance. Ukraine has fought against Putin’s fantasy that the Kievan Rus belongs to Russia rather than Ukraine. Similarly, Pakistan has taken advantage of Afghanistan’s location between three great civilizations and passes. This talk discusses the economic motivations behind Pakistan holding the Afghan population hostage with its position as a broker for inflows of military and developmental assistance, along with becoming a colonial figure to Afghanistan, deciding when and how the population would get paid for its exports. This mercantilistic relationship between the two states is similar to the relationship observed between Ukraine and Russia. Finally, this talk examines the role of corruption in both Afghanistan and Ukraine and its relation to their larger and more militarized neighbors. This corruption is analyzed as an operating system of integrated networks that are based on self-enrichment. Pakistan, similar to the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, has artificially exacerbated issues that have kept Afghanistan from developing as a strong state.