Lauren Woods

Lauren Woods

Director, Security Assistance Monitor

Lauren Woods is the Director of the Security Assistance Monitor at the Center for International Policy, where she tracks, analyzes, and educates policymakers, media, scholars, and others about trends and issues related to U.S. foreign security assistance. Previously, she was a Vice President at Equanimity Foundation, where she managed strategy and fundraising efforts, and Deputy Director of Programs at Strategic Capacity Group, where she oversaw U.S. Department of State- funded security sector reform programs across North and West Africa. There, she conducted assessments and partnered with security forces and officials in the Central African Republic, Mali, Tunisia, and elsewhere.

Before that, Ms. Woods served as a National Security Fellow through the Brookings Institution in the U.S. Senate. She worked at the Department of State from 2008 to 2015, serving in multiple bureaus and focusing on security and human rights, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Her work at the State Department included time working in U.S. embassies in Cairo and Baghdad and serving in the Near East Affairs Bureau through the Arab Spring. Before that, she worked for Human Rights First’s Law and Security program in New York.

Ms. Woods received her M.A. in International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies  SAIS) and her B.A. in Government from the University of Texas. She has published in outlets including The Washington Post, The Hill, U.S. News & World Report, and elsewhere. She speaks Arabic and has lived in Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco.


June 2, 2021

Ever Shifting Goal Posts: Lessons from 20 Years of Security Assistance in Afghanistan

by Lauren Woods and Elias Yousif

In light of President Biden’s announcement of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan by
September 11 of this year, this report offers several lessons learned, including committing
to a longer-term vision for security assistance in future endeavors. This is a conversation
and goal that U.S. and international planners should have prioritized from the very first days
in Afghanistan. There is no way to turn back the clock to reverse the mistakes of the last
20 years, but if some lessons can be gained from these efforts and the sacrifices that have
been made, then future similar efforts, if they must be made at all, will at least have a better
roadmap for what may lie ahead.

Ever Shifting Goal Posts: Lessons from 20 Years of Security Assistance in Afghanistan


June 9, 2021

Warfighting vs Institution-Building: America’s Chronic Contradiction in Afghanistan

By Lauren Woods and Elias Yousif

The contradiction between the goals of warfighting and institution-building is just one of many factors in the failures of the United States and NATO countries to build up capable security forces in Afghanistan, but it is one of the most important, most ignored, and unfortunately, likely to be repeated.

May 31, 2021

US aid to Israel was always a given. Will growing support for Palestinians change that?

Lauren Woods quoted

In this USA Today article, our Lauren Woods is quoted extensively: "America's military aid to Israel is unique in at least three ways – scale, lack of transparency and long-term commitment," says Lauren Woods, who analyzes U.S. security assistance at the Center for International Policy, a Washington research organization

June 2, 2021

Politico Morning Defense - Afghanistan

Lauren Woods and Elias Yousif's SAM Afghanistan Report quoted

A new report out today on the international security assistance effort offers a detailed rundown of lessons learned. “The scale, scope, and ambitions for security assistance often failed to consider what was actually achievable and the staggering resources that would be required to achieve them,” said the report from the Center for International Policy. “In the end, a striking asymmetry between the expectations of nations providing security assistance, especially the United States, put upon Afghanistan, regardless of its size and abilities, raised expectations for maximalist achievements and laid the groundwork for strategic failures.”

April 15, 2021

From Endless War to Endless Operations

by Lauren Woods

The reaction to President Biden’s newly announced plan to withdraw all U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 11 of this year has ranged from the dismay of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who called it a “grave mistake,” to more positive statements from Senate Democrats such as Tim Kaine, who said it’s time to bring U.S. troops home and refocus on other challenges.

Missing from these early reactions is a critical question: What does a troop withdrawal really look like in Afghanistan? And what are America’s plans for security assistance, or support for Afghanistan’s security forces, when U.S. troops leave?