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Illicit Networks-Zaranj

Wed, Jul 15, 2020

Strategies for reforming Afghanistan’s illicit networks

Authored in-house and advised upon by senior fellows Ambassador James B. Cunningham, Ambassador Omar Samad, Marika Theros, Javid Ahmad, and Fatemeh Aman, this report explores illicit networks in Afghanistan in the context of peacebuilding, democratic consolidation, and enhancing state capacity. It concludes by outlining several specific policy recommendations that will be necessary to combat the illicit networks in a manner that supports the durability of the ongoing peace process in Afghanistan and the continued consolidation of its fragile democratic institutions.

In-Depth Research & Reports by Harris Samad and Fatima Salman

Afghanistan Arms Control

Wed, Jul 8, 2020

Cunningham joins the CBS podcast “Intelligence Matters” to discuss Russia, Afghanistan, and Prospects for Peace

In the News by Atlantic Council

Afghanistan Peacekeeping and Peacebuilding

Mon, Jun 29, 2020

How revelations of Russian bounties in Afghanistan could escalate the US-Russia feud

"The United States and its democratic allies have options," to push back against Moscow, but they must "think through the challenge with care and in context of the larger challenge Putin poses for us," Daniel Fried says.

New Atlanticist by David A. Wemer

Afghanistan Conflict

Ambassador James B. Cunningham joined the Atlantic Council in May 2015 as a Senior Fellow in the South Asia Center. He became a Nonresident Senior Fellow in May 2016. He served as ambassador to Afghanistan (August 2012 to December 2014), and as deputy ambassador (2011 – 2012). He was ambassador to Israel (2008 -2011), consul general for Hong Kong and Macau (2005 – 2008), ambassador and deputy permanent representative to the United Nations in New York (1999 – 2004), and acting permanent representative to the United Nations for the first nine months of 2001, including on 9/11.

After early tours in Stockholm, Washington, Rome, and the US Mission to NATO, NATO Secretary General Manfred Woerner selected Ambassador Cunningham as his chief of staff (1988 – 1990). He advised the Secretary General on all NATO issues in the context of nuclear disarmament in Europe, the collapse of the Berlin wall and the reunification of Germany, and the impending dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union.

Just after Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Ambassador Cunningham became deputy political counselor at the US Mission to the United Nations. In 1992, he became the deputy director of the State Department Office of European Security and Political Affairs (1992 – 1993) and then director (1993 – 1995). He served as deputy chief of mission at the Embassy in Rome (1996 – 1999). 

Ambassador Cunningham was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania and graduated magna cum laude from Syracuse University with degrees in political science and psychology. He is married to Leslie Genier of Mineville, New York. They have two daughters. Ambassador Cunningham is the recipient of multiple awards from the State Department, the National Performance Review’s Hammer Award for Innovation in Management, the US President’s Meritorious Service Award (twice), and has received awards from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Secretary of Defense, the Afghan government, and Syracuse University. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and The Asia Society. Ambassador Cunningham retired from government service in December 2014 with the rank of career minister.