Sarah Chayes, a senior fellow in Carnegie’s Democracy, Conflict, and Governance program, is the author of Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. She is internationally recognized for her innovative thinking on corruption and its implications. Her work explores how severe corruption can help prompt such crises as terrorism, revolutions and their violent aftermaths, and environmental degradation.
Before joining Carnegie, Chayes served as special assistant to the top U.S. military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. She focused on governance issues, participating in cabinet-level decision-making on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab Spring, and traveling with Mullen frequently to these regions. Chayes was tapped for the job after her work as special adviser to two commanders of the international troops in Afghanistan (ISAF), at the end of a decade on the ground there.
It was a sense of historic opportunity that prompted Chayes to end her journalism career in early 2002, after covering the fall of the Taliban for NPR, and to remain in Afghanistan to help rebuild the country. She chose to settle in the former Taliban heartland, Kandahar.
In 2005, Chayes founded Arghand, a start-up manufacturing cooperative, where men and women working together produce fine skin-care products. The goal was to revive the region’s historic role in exporting fruit and its derivatives, to promote sustainable development, and expand alternatives to the opium economy. Running Arghand in downtown Kandahar proved to an instructive vantage point for observing the unfolding war.
From 1996 to 2001, Chayes was NPR’s Paris correspondent. For her work during the Kosovo crisis, she shared the 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards.
Along with Thieves of State, which won the 2016 Los Angeles Times Book Prize, Chayes is the author of The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (Penguin, 2006).