Skip to main content

Vanda Felbab-Brown

Guest Speaker

Professional affiliation

Senior Fellow, Foreign Policy, Brookings Institution

Full Biography

Vanda Felbab-Brown is a senior fellow in the Center for Security, Strategy, and Technology in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She is the director of the Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors. She is also the co-director of the Africa Security Initiative and the Brookings series on opioids: “The Opioid Crisis in America: Domestic and International Dimensions. Previously, she was the co-director of the Brookings project, “Improving Global Drug Policy: Comparative Perspectives Beyond UNGASS 2016,” as well as of another Brookings project, “Reconstituting Local Orders.” Felbab-Brown is an expert on international and internal conflicts and nontraditional security threats, including insurgency, organized crime, urban violence, and illicit economies. Her fieldwork and research have covered, among others, Afghanistan, South Asia, Burma, Indonesia, the Andean region, Mexico, Morocco, Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Tanzania, Namibia, Niger, and Nigeria. She was a senior advisor to the congressionally-mandated Afghanistan Peace Process Study Group.

Felbab-Brown is the author of “The Extinction Market: Wildlife Trafficking and How to Counter It” (Hurst, 2018); “Narco Noir: Mexico’s Cartels, Cops, and Corruption” (The Brookings Institution Press, 2021, forthcoming); “Militants, Criminals, and Warlords: The Challenge of Local Governance in an Age of Disorder” (The Brookings Institution Press, 2018; co-authored with Shadi Hamid and Harold Trinkunas); “Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State-Building in Afghanistan” (Brookings Institution Press, 2013); and “Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs” (Brookings Institution Press, 2010). She is also the author of numerous policy reports, academic articles, and opinion pieces. A frequent commentator in U.S. and international media, Felbab-Brown regularly provides congressional testimony on these issues. She has also been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her scholarly and policy contributions.

Among her recent publications are: “The fate of women’s rights in Afghanistan,” co-authored with Brookings President John R. Allen, The Brookings Institution, September 16, 2020; “Grand theft water and the calculus of compliance,” Nature Sustainability, August 24, 2020; “Bargaining with the devil to avoid hell? Negotiations with criminal groups in Latin America and the Caribbean,” Institute for Integrated Transitions, July 2020; “Fending off fentanyl and hunting down heroin: Controlling opioid supply from Mexico,” The Brookings Institution, July 22, 2020; “Fentanyl and geopolitics: Controlling opioid supply from China,” The Brookings Institution, July 22, 2020; “Reopening the world: Walling off Mexico will not work,” The Brookings Institution, June 16, 2020; “Reopening the world: To prevent zoogenic pandemics, regulate wildlife trade and food production,” The Brookings Institution, June 16, 2020; “A BRI(dge) too far: The unfulfilled promise and limitations of China’s involvement in Afghanistan,” The Brookings Institution, June 2020; “Reopening America: Immediate domestic law enforcement priorities,” The Brookings Institution, May 28, 2020; “The problem with militias in Somalia: Almost everyone wants them despite their dangers,” United Nations University, April 14, 2020; and “Militias (and militancy) in Nigeria’s north-east: Not going away,” United Nations University, April 14, 2020.

Felbab-Brown received her doctorate in political science from MIT and her bachelor’s in government from Harvard University.