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Sarah Chayes

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Sarah Chayes
Sarah Chayes, 2015
Born (1962-03-05) March 5, 1962 (age 62)
Washington, D.C.
Alma materHarvard University
Occupation(s)Journalist, political advisor
Parent(s)Abram Chayes
Antonia Handler Chayes

Sarah Chayes (born March 5, 1962) is a former senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and former reporter for National Public Radio, she also served as special advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[1][2]


Sarah Chayes is the daughter of the late law professor and Kennedy administration official Abram Chayes[3] and lawyer and former undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force Antonia Handler Chayes.[4] She is of Jewish descent.[5] She graduated from Phillips Academy, Andover (1980)[6] and Harvard University (1984)[7] with a degree in history, magna cum laude. She was awarded the Radcliffe College History Prize. She then served in the Peace Corps in Morocco, returning to Harvard to earn a master's degree in history,[7] specializing in the medieval Islamic period. Besides English, she speaks Pashto, French, and Arabic.[8]


Chayes began her reporting career freelancing from Paris for The Christian Science Monitor Radio and other outlets. From 1996 to 2002, she served as Paris reporter for National Public Radio, covering France, the European Union, North Africa, and the Balkans. She earned 1999 Foreign Press Club and Sigma Delta Chi awards (together with other members of the NPR team) for her reporting on the Kosovo War.[1] After covering the fall of the Taliban and the early weeks of post-Taliban Afghanistan in 2002, Chayes decided to leave reporting and stay behind to try to contribute to the rebuilding of the war-torn country.

Chayes lived in Kandahar, Afghanistan from 2002 to 2009. Having learned to speak Pashto, she helped rebuild homes and set up a dairy cooperative. In May 2005, she established the Arghand Cooperative,[9] a venture that encourages local Afghan farmers to produce flowers, fruits, and herbs instead of opium poppies. The cooperative buys their almonds, pomegranate seeds, cumin and anise and artemisia and root dyes, extracts oils, essential oils, and tinctures from them, with which it produces soaps and other scented products for export. The cooperative is an associate member of the Natural Perfumers Guild.[9][10] Chayes wrote an article detailing the story of the Arghand cooperative and her difficulties with the American aid establishment, which appeared in the December 2007 issue of The Atlantic.[11]

Since leaving full-time radio reporting, she has been a frequent contributor to the print media, writing for Foreign Policy Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, and the Washington Post, among other outlets. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace maintains an archive of her writings.[1]

Chayes has been a guest of PBS's Bill Moyers Journal,[12][13] WHYY-FM's Terry Gross, WNYC's Leonard Lopate, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show, PBS's Charlie Rose, 2020 Bristol Festival of Ideas (UK),[14] and various others.

Advisor to Joint Chiefs of Staff[edit]

In 2010, Chayes became a special advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. In this capacity, she contributed to strategic US policy on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab Spring.[1]

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace[edit]

Sarah Chayes is a senior fellow in Carnegie's Democracy and Rule of Law program.[15] At Carnegie, Chayes has launched a corruption and security initiative, which analyzes the structure of kleptocratic governments around the world, the other risk factors with which public corruption is interacting in specific countries, the likelihood of a significant security event resulting, and potential approaches available to different local and international actors. She conducts significant field research on this topic, hosts speakers and workshops, both in the U.S. and in relevant countries, and speaks and writes frequently.[1]

Books and other works[edit]

External videos
video icon Presentation by Chayes on The Punishment of Virtue, C-SPAN
video icon Interview with Chayes on Thieves of State, April 9, 2016, C-SPAN

Chayes is the author of The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban (2006)[16] and Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security (2014);[17] as well as On Corruption in America: And What Is at Stake (2020).[18]

In January 2009, Chayes wrote Comprehensive Action Plan for Afghanistan, an analysis of the dilemma in Afghanistan ca. 2009 and a plan for its resolution.[19]

In a 2011 op-ed published in the Los Angeles Times, Chayes decried the "rampant public corruption" in Afghanistan, asserting that the country "is controlled by a structured, mafiaesque system, in which money flows upward via purchase of office, kickbacks or 'sweets' in return for permission to extract resources . . . and protection."[20]

In another 2012 op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times, Chayes argued that the controversial Innocence of Muslims video may not be protected under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment free speech guarantees. She contended that speech deliberately tailored in content and manner to provoke a violent reaction differs from speech that is merely offensive.[21][22][23]

During the October 6, 2021 episode of the BBC's Thinking Allowed (on post-occupation Afghanistan), Chayes was highly critical of the corrupt example of "democracy" set by the US for Afghans and others to follow.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Sarah Chayes: Senior Associate, Democracy and Rule of Law Program, South Asia Program". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  2. ^ "About Sarah Chayes". Retrieved November 26, 2020.
  3. ^ "Abram Chayes, John Kennedy Aide, Dies at 77". The New York Times. April 18, 2000. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  4. ^ "Antonia Handler Chayes, Professor of Practice of International Politics and Law". Tufts University. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  5. ^ Sarah, Chayes (December 1, 2001). "Morocco RPCV Sarah Chayes spends A Night in the Taliban Kitchen". Andover Bulletin via peacecorpsonline.org. The best were the two Tajik cooks who adopted me, made me sit in their warm kitchen, gave me their bed and served me endless cups of hot green tea all through the night as I worked. I snuck them apricots for the 5 a.m. meal as everyone filed in to take dishes of rice in a din of clanking pots and clattering plates. How incredibly surreal—an American (Jewish!) female the pampered pet of the Taliban during the death throes of their regime.
  6. ^ "Andover Bestows Its Highest Honor on Sarah Chayes '80". Phillips Academy. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "Off the Shelf, Recent books with Harvard connections". Harvard Magazine. December 15, 2014. Retrieved August 15, 2015.
  8. ^ "SENIOR FELLOW DEMOCRACY AND RULE OF LAW PROGRAM". Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Retrieved October 21, 2017.
  9. ^ a b "Sarah Chayes, Founder". February 11, 2014. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  10. ^ "Natural Perfumers Guild Members". Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  11. ^ Chayes, Sarah (December 1, 2007). "Scents & Sensibility". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  12. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal: Sarah Chayes". Bill Moyers Journal. February 15, 2008. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  13. ^ "Bill Moyers Journal: Sarah Chayes". Bill Moyers Journal. December 19, 2008. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  14. ^ Sarah Chayes: Everybody Knows: Corruption in America (Bristol Festival of Ideas), retrieved October 24, 2023
  15. ^ "Sarah Chayes".
  16. ^ Chayes, Sarah (August 2006). The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0143112068.
  17. ^ Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. Norton. January 2014. ISBN 978-0393239461.
  18. ^ On Corruption in America: and What Is at Stake. Penguinrandomhouse. August 2020. ISBN 9780525654858.
  19. ^ "Comprehensive Action Plan for Afghanistan" (PDF). January 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 19, 2009. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  20. ^ Chayes, Sarah (September 25, 2011). "Government by crime syndicate". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  21. ^ Chayes, Sarah (September 18, 2012). "Does 'Innocence of Muslims' meet the free-speech test?". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  22. ^ Taranto, James (September 19, 2012). "Vive la France". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  23. ^ Hudson, John (September 19, 2012). "A Really Bad Idea: A World Tour of 'Innocence of Muslims' Screenings". The Atlantic Wire. Retrieved February 3, 2015.
  24. ^ "Thinking Allowed - Afghanistan - BBC Sounds". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved June 6, 2024.

External links[edit]