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.

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

REPORT
September 13, 2021

The Expanding Scope of U.S. Security Assistance Since 9/11

by Lauren Woods and Elias Yousif

A detailed look at the shifting and expanding landscape of U.S. security assistance since the September 11th attacks.

The Expanding Scope of U.S. Security Assistance Since 9/11
July 12, 2021

Factsheet: U.S. Foreign Military Training to Saudi Arabia in
Context

Lauren Woods

Four Saudis who participated in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi reportedly
received paramilitary training in the United States in 2017. This case has highlighted the ongoing
training the U.S. government and defense contractors provide for members of Saudi Arabia’s military
and raised questions about the vetting of participants.

Factsheet: U.S. Foreign Military Training to Saudi Arabia in 
Context
REPORT
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

LATEST NEWS

August 2, 2021

Why American Security Cooperation Must Become More Transparent

By Lauren Woods & Elias Yousif

As deliberation continues over the current National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), beyond debating the size of the budget, Congress also has an opportunity to build on the 2017 reforms by making security assistance more transparent and accountable through better public reporting, including detailed yearly reporting of U.S. security assistance and cooperation.

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.

July 30, 2021

The Top US Diplomat on Arms Control Commits to `Values-Based Security Partnerships’ — Here’s How to Do That

Lauren Woods

"This focus on values and effectiveness would be a deeply needed correction to the current trajectory of U.S. security cooperation, which has largely failed to weigh the human rights and security risks of assistance to foreign security forces. For far too long, America’s security cooperation enterprise has prioritized short-term and tactical goals over longer-term diplomatic and human rights aims. "

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.”