M. Lyla Kohistany is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Forward Defense program under the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security. She is an inclusion strategist and cultural intelligence advisor. Since 2015, Lyla has been a consultant at the Cultural Intelligence Center, a diversity and inclusion strategy firm, and worked with military and government personnel, executives, staff, students, and faculty across the globe. She currently serves as the firm’s master facilitator and director of government programs. Additionally, Lyla consults for US Special Operations Command as a senior cultural advisor for Afghanistan and is the president and co-founder of PROMOTE, a nonprofit focused on inclusive mentorship and leadership development in the national security sector. She volunteers as an ambassador for the Global War on Terror Memorial Foundation and is a gubernatorial appointee to the Virginia Board of Veterans Services.
She began her career in 2001 as a US Navy surface warfare officer stationed in Japan. As an Afghan-American, the attacks on 9/11 prompted her to transfer into the intelligence community where served as a counterterrorism analyst in Afghanistan working alongside US and NATO special operations forces. Upon deciding to separate from the military, she consulted for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, and US Special Operations Command, preparing US and NATO military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel for their South Asia deployments. She also served as the cultural advisor to the commanding general at the NATO Special Operations Component Command-Afghanistan/Special Operations Joint Task Force-Afghanistan headquartered in Kabul.
Lyla is a Doctor of Education student in Arizona State University’s Leadership and Innovation program. She holds a MA from Georgetown University and a BA from Penn State University. She is avid Star Wars aficionado, enjoys international travel, and spends every free moment with her niece and nephews.