Christopher Kolenda

Christopher Kolenda

Senior Fellow


Christopher D. Kolenda is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Policy, and author of Focused Engagement: A New Forward in Afghanistan. He also is the President and CEO of Kolenda Strategic Leadership, supporting organizations in leadership, business strategy, and risk management. He recently served as the senior adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan to Undersecretary of Defense Michèle Flournoy, and has served four tours of duty in Afghanistan. He was decorated with the Department of Defense’s highest civilian award for his work on strategy.

Kolenda graduated from the United States Military Academy and went on to serve in the U.S. 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 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, Kolenda was hand selected by the undersecretary 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.  He then shaped every critical policy and strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan until 2014. His advice has been adopted by three defense secretaries and the president of the United States.

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, The New York Times, The Economist, and The London Times.

Kolenda holds a master of arts in European History from the University of Wisconsin, and a master of arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.  He is completing his doctorate at King’s College London. 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, 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," is a provocative look at adaptive leadership in complex and dangerous combat environments.

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Christopher D. Kolenda is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Policy.
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