John Dempsey

Fellow, International Security Program

John Dempsey is a fellow in New America's International Security program, with a specialization in Afghanistan and South and Southeast Asia, the laws of armed conflict, and promoting rule of law, democracy, and security in fragile and developing states. He also serves as an expert consultant to the State Department’s Office of Global Criminal Justice. 

Prior to his current roles, Dempsey served as senior advisor to Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke and his successors in the State Department’s Office of the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he oversaw U.S. government rule of law and elections policy in the region from 2009-2016. He was a core member of Secretary John Kerry’s negotiating team that helped establish Afghanistan’s government of national unity in 2014. Dempsey previously served in various roles based in Afghanistan and Pakistan between 2003 and 2009, including with the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Asia Foundation, the International Rescue Committee, and the American Bar Association.  From 2000-2003, Dempsey was an attorney in the capital markets practice group of Linklaters LLP based in New York City.  He began his career as a freelance journalist and teacher in Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand in the mid-1990s.

In 2014, Dempsey co-executive produced “White City”, a one-hour television pilot set in Afghanistan that he created and wrote for AMC Networks. He currently critiques drama scripts for the Writers’ Guild of America and is working on a film script about the Afghan War.

Dempsey received a joint Juris Doctor and Master of Science in foreign service from Georgetown University in 2000 and a B.A. in history from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1993. He is a member of the New York Bar and the Writers’ Guild of America-East and was a 2012 recipient of the State Department's Superior Honor Award for overseeing development of the U.S. government's rule of law strategy in Afghanistan.

All Work

Afghanistan Policy Under Trump

What impact the Trump administration will have in the ongoing war in Afghanistan.

There Is No Military Path to Victory in Afghanistan

John Dempsey wrote for Time about the Trump administration's military strategy in Afghanistan.

Afghanistan in Crisis: Where to Go From Here

What steps will the Trump administration take to address the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan?

The Afghan Surge Trump Needs

John Dempsey wrote for Politico Magazine about President Trump's forthcoming Afghanistan strategy:

Case Study: Property Rights and Stability in Afghanistan

ISP Fellow John Dempsey describes how a brief assignment to resettle refugees turned into years of property rights work in Afghanistan.