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Wed, Nov 18, 2020

The Trump administration is right—on civilian oversight of special operations

While the elevation of an assistant secretary of defense may elicit yawns, the move addresses one of the most important issues for any country: how to best secure civilian control over the military.

New Atlanticist by William F. Wechsler

Defense Policy National Security

Wed, Nov 18, 2020

Wechsler quoted in AFP on Trump’s announcement to pull troops from Afghanistan

In the News

Afghanistan Elections

Tue, Nov 17, 2020

FAST THINKING: Trump’s plan to bring US troops home by Inauguration Day

First he shook up the leadership at the Pentagon. Now, as his new acting defense secretary announced on Tuesday, Donald Trump is planning to withdraw significant numbers of US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. How should we weigh the noble cause of ending wars against the president’s rush to do so as his term comes to an end? And how will these moves affect the Biden administration’s options when it takes office in January?

Fast Thinking by Atlantic Council

Afghanistan Defense Industry

William F. Wechsler is Director of the Rafik Hariri Center and Middle East Programs at the Atlantic Council.

Wechsler’s most recent government position was Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Combatting Terrorism. He advised multiple Secretaries and helped coordinate interagency policies on a wide range of direct and indirect actions. His portfolio included the Department’s policies, plans, authorities and resources related to special operations and irregular warfare, with an emphasis on counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, information operations and other sensitive operations. He also helped provide civilian oversight for the service-like responsibilities of the United States Special Operations Command.

Previously Wechsler served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Counternarcotics and Global Threats, where he directed a budget of $1.6 billion and oversaw military and civilian programs around the globe. His key areas of focus included integrating law enforcement operations into our military campaigns in Afghanistan and institutionalizing military counter threat finance structures and doctrine.

During the Clinton Administration Wechsler served as Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, where he helped establish the legal regime and policies we use to impose foreign sanctions and combat money laundering. He had previously served as Director for Transnational Threats on the National Security Council staff, and prior to that was a Special Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Wechsler is currently also President of the Center on Illicit Networks and Transnational Organized Crime and the Treasurer of the American Historical Association. He was previously a Senior Fellow at the Middle East Institute and a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

Wechsler has also had a separate career in finance. He has been Vice Chairman of Capitol Peak Asset Management and Managing Director of Greenwich Associates. He is a CFA charter holder and also holds the Series 7 and Series 63 securities licenses.

Wechsler is a graduate of Cornell University and received a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He has been an adjunct lecturer at SIPA and is currently an executive committee member of the SIPA alumni association. He has contributed chapters to two edited volumes and has been published in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, and the National Interest, among others.