Christopher D. Kolenda

Adjunct Senior Fellow

Christopher D. Kolenda is the Founder of the Strategic Leaders Academy, which helps nonprofits and small businesses maximize their impact by developing their Leadership, Culture, and Strategy.

He recently served as the Senior Advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan to Under Secretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, and three 4* Generals in Afghanistan. He was decorated with the Department of Defense’s highest civilian award for his work on strategy.

Chris 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.

In 2007-08, he commanded an 800-solider task force in Kunar and Nuristan provinces where he pioneered an innovative approach to counterinsurgency in one of the most violent areas of the country. His unit is the only one in the history of the war to have motivated a large insurgent group to stop fighting and join the government.

In 2009, he was hand-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 drafted the groundbreaking McChrystal assessment, counterinsurgency guidance, and military strategy. His advice has been adopted by three Secretaries of Defense and the President of the United States.

He was selected to be the Secretary of Defense’s representative in exploratory talks with the Taliban from 2010-2013. He is the only American to have fought the Taliban in combat and engaged them in high-level diplomacy.

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, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, The Economist, and The London Times.

Chris holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from King’s College, London; his dissertation is a critical analysis of American strategic leadership in post-9/11wars.

A highly sought-after speaker and writer, Christopher 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, maps the journey of a leader in a difficult and dangerous conflict.

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