Christopher D. Kolenda

Adjunct Senior Fellow

Christopher D. Kolenda is an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security. He recently served as the senior advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Department of Defense senior leadership and has served four tours in Afghanistan.

Mr. Kolenda graduated from the United States Military Academy and went on to serve in the United States Army with great distinction, to include leading large, complex organizations in the United States, Europe and in combat in Afghanistan. He also served as an Assistant Professor of History at West Point.

In 2007-08, he commanded an airborne infantry task force in Kunar and Nuristan provinces and pioneered an innovative approach to counterinsurgency. Employing locally-tailored combinations of armed diplomacy, conflict resolution, personal relationships and high degrees of leverage, his unit dramatically improved the levels of stability in what had been one of the most violent areas of Afghanistan. According to a 2012 study by the Center of Naval Analyses, his unit’s performance was among the most highly successful in America’s longest war.

In 2009, he was selected by the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy to develop a new U.S. strategy for the conflict, and was then ordered back to Afghanistan where he co-authored the groundbreaking McChrystal assessment, counterinsurgency guidance and military strategy.  He has since shaped every critical policy and strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Three Secretaries of Defense and the President of the United States have adopted his advice.

His efforts have been featured in two New York Times bestselling books: The Outpost by Jake Tapper and Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson, as well as in numerous newspaper and journal articles and studies, such as The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist and The London Times.

Mr. Kolenda holds a M.A. in European History from the University of Wisconsin, and a M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.  In addition to his books, he has written numerous articles on leadership and national security issues for professional journals.

A highly sought-after speaker and writer, Mr. Kolenda is the editor and coauthor of Leadership: The Warrior's Art, which has appeared on the professional reading lists of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and many professional schools.  His new book, The Counterinsurgency Challenge, serves as an experiential tutorial on adaptive leadership in complex environments in conflict zones.

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