1. In what specific areas does your research focus?
I mainly conduct research on irregular warfare, post-conflict stabilization, and developing economies in the Middle East, the Levant, and Central/South Asia. I've also spent a great deal of time in the field traveling with special operations forces across Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria to better understand conditions on the ground and assess the effectiveness of military counterinsurgency operations.
2. What are you currently working on?
Over the past two years, my research has focused on efforts to defeat the Islamic State, including assessments of the role of special operations forces, counter threat finance efforts, and airpower in defeating the group. Increasingly, as ISIS's territory has receded, my work has shifted towards helping stabilize and reconstruct liberated areas. This includes my most recent report, When the Islamic State Comes to Town, which used satellite imagery and remote sensing data to diagnose the economic impact of the Islamic State on market activity, industrial production, agriculture, and much more. Currently I'm using this same approach to help the U.S. government prepare to stabilize ISIS's last pocket of territory along the Euphrates River Valley in Syria.
3. Why is this work important?
It's easy to think about post-conflict stabilization as solely a humanitarian mission, but it is an absolutely critical part of conflict prevention as well. Even after the demise of the Islamic State's physical caliphate, there are major unresolved tensions in Iraq and Syria that will linger for years. This includes the future of Arab populations in Syria currently under Kurdish control, tensions between all three major ethnicities in Iraq, and the potential for a resurgence of the Islamic State as Daesh 2.0. These simmering issues make it even more important for us to help the international community and local governments build effective governance now, and not simply push it off into the future.
4. Can you talk more about the technology you use for your research?
The satellite imagery and remote sensing data I use in my work includes measuring electricity consumption using nighttime lighting, diagnosing agricultural productivity using the wavelengths of visible and near-infrared light, and crowdsourced analysis of satellite imagery to count tractor trailers on roads and assess market activity in urban areas across Iraq and Syria.
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