Who We Are

Our Story

The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU) is a Kabul-based independent research think tank established in 2002 with the assistance of the international community in Afghanistan. AREU’s mission is to inform policy and practice by conducting high-quality, evidence-based research and actively disseminating the results, and to promote a culture of research and learning.

AREU achieves its mission through active engagement with policymakers, civil society actors, researchers, and the development assistance community in Afghanistan to promote their use of AREU’s research publications and its library, strengthening research capacity and creating spaces for analysis, reflection, and debate.

AREU is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of representatives of donor organizations, embassies, the United Nations and other multilateral agencies, Afghan civil society, and independent experts.

AREU’s core donor is the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA). Specific projects in 2019 are being funded by the European Union (EU), United States Institute of Peace (USIP), Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), Overseas Development Institute (ODI-UK), School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and Economic and Social Research Council United Kingdom (ESRC-UK), UN-Women, Save the Children, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and University of Essex.

AREU holds memberships in multiple international development consortiums including the RESOLVE Network, Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) and A Conflict Sensitive Unpacking of The EU Comprehensive Approach to Conflict and Crisis Mechanism (EUNPACK).

AREU has been ranked as the top think-tank in Afghanistan by the University of Pennsylvania’s Global Go To Think Tank Index Report in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The report also ranked the organization as number 3 in Central Asia. In 2018, UK-based Prospect Magazine recognized AREU as the top International Social Think Tank.


AREU’s values as a research organization fit into the FRAME acronym.

Flexibility and Objectivity: AREU’s best work is responsive to the dynamic context in Afghanistan. It draws on academic research around the globe, but grounds all knowledge in evidence-based research within Afghanistan itself.

Resilience: As an organization confronted with often fraught work environments that pose both emotional and physical threats, the organisation as a whole must be resilient in the face of danger—but ever wary of ensuring its staff’s safety and well-being.

Accessibility: The organization’s commitment is to all the people of Afghanistan. AREU reflects people’s voices through its research that is responsive to their needs and has consistently published its research materials in Dari and Pashto to ensure that our knowledge generation is accessible to and understandable by the Afghan public.

Mutual Respect and Inclusion: The organization is committed to creating a working environment that values the insight and opinions of all its staff, ensuring a diversity reflective of the nation as a whole. We ensure that all research conducted and all publications produced are founded upon principles of respect for the research subjects and communities involved.

Excellence: AREU is committed to producing the highest quality research and learning products through collective diligence and intellectual rigor, without compromising the organisation’s independence or impartiality.


AREU envisions an Afghanistan where policy decisions are made on the basis of evidence, open debate, and widespread public awareness in the belief that this will better reflect the priorities of the Afghan people and give rise to more informed policies and programs.


As an independent, non-profit, and non-partisan Afghan-led research institute, our mission is to inform policy and practice and produce knowledge by conducting high-quality research to nurture a culture of research and learning in Afghanistan and stimulate demand for evidence-based research.

Dr. Orzala Nemat

Message from the Director

It is my pleasure to introduce you to the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU). I have been a witness to the far-reaching impact of the research conducted at the organization. Through its work, AREU strives to generate debates and shape discourses, inform and influence the implementation of policies, all of which are in service of building a better Afghanistan.

As the first Afghan woman to lead AREU, I am privileged to be at an organization that promotes inclusion as one of its core values. During my tenure, one of my biggest priorities has been to ensure that we continue to imbue the principle of inclusion in the workplace but also in our work. To that end, we make sure that our research is reflective of the diversity in Afghanistan. Furthermore, we ensure that our work is accessible and comprehensible to the whole world (in English) and especially to Afghans which is underscored by the fact that almost all our research is translated into Dari and Pashto.

AREU has the capability of being adaptive to the ever-changing environment in Afghanistan. As the political, security and social environment in the country has changed over the years, we have responded by shifting our focus to six key strategic areas of research that reflect some of the most pressing problems affecting the country. This has allowed us to produce timely high-quality publications, conduct workshops with practitioners and diverse groups of local and international stakeholders, and present our findings and recommendations at notable forums to address the challenges the country is facing.

At AREU, we are dedicated to promoting a culture of research in Afghanistan. We do this by ensuring that we are cultivating the research capabilities of our all-Afghan Research Department. In addition, we are consistently engaged with academic institutions in Afghanistan to ensure that university staff & students can avail themselves of the resources that AREU has to offer in the realm of research.

Afghanistan enters a critical year in 2019 wherein significant political, security and strategic challenges are likely to unfold. Due to this uncertainty, it is my personal mission to sustain AREU’s thematic research focus at a time when evidence-based research is perhaps most needed to inform and influence policymaking than ever before.

Our Team

Dr. Orzala Nemat


Dr. Orzala Nemat, an internationally known Afghan activist and scholar is an expert in political ethnography, holding a Ph.D. in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and MSc in Development Planning from the University College London (UCL). Dr. Nemat experienced how it is to be a war refugee for fourteen years in Pakistan. However, she chose to rise above the situation by putting the focus on developing her career, at the same time, she assisted and helped the marginalized members of society through educational programs, building schools, protection of female victims of violence and peacebuilding for children.

Dr. Nemat founded an organisation, led and worked with various grassroots, national and international organizations in over 17 years of her professional life. She served on various development organizations’ governance boards and attended numerous international and national conferences representing voices from Afghanistan and the Afghan women. She was selected as a Young Global Leader at the World Forum in 2009, Yale Greenberg World Fellows in 2008 and is a recipient of the Isabel Ferror Award for Women’s Education and the Amnesty International Award for Humanitarian Aid to Children and Women. Upon completion of her studies and after teaching international development courses at SOAS, Dr. Nemat returned to Kabul where she worked as the president’s advisor on sub-national governance.


Dr. Nishank Motwani

Deputy Director

Nishank works at the intersection of conflict, security, and diplomacy focussing on Afghanistan and the wider region. He works on projects funded by international agencies and is responsible for strategy development and implementation, engagement and outreach, and responding to evolving programmatic challenges of working in Afghanistan.

His research examines the regional dynamics of transnational conflicts centered on the conflict in Afghanistan, trust-building approaches to regional cooperation, negotiating with violent actors such as the Taliban, and nuclear strategy. He holds a PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of New South Wales, two Master’s degrees in Diplomacy and Strategic Studies from The Australian National University, and a Bachelor of Science in Economics from Northeastern University, Boston.


Mohammad Hassan Wafaey

Research Manager

Wafaey is the Research Manager at AREU and has worked on governance, gender, social protection, democratisation, and community development issues for over 15 years. He has an MA and BA in Political Science from Kateb University and lectured at Gawharshad Institute of Higher Education in Kabul. Wafaey has worked as a political advisor with European diplomatic missions in Kabul as well as with international NGOs including Democracy International and the Overseas Development Institute. He has conducted extensive fieldwork across Afghanistan and co-authored papers on the Afghan parliament and elections, MPs’ perspectives on parliamentary and district council elections and restoring livelihoods through community-driven development.


Ahmad Masoud

Communication and Advocacy Manager

Ahmad Masoud works as the Communication and Advocacy Manager at AREU. He has more than 12 years of work experience in Communication, Advocacy and Policy Engagement with various organizations at national and international levels. Mr. Masoud has successfully contributed to the drafting of actionable policy recommendations as well as to the development and implementation strategies to promote policy analyses.

Mr. Masoud holds an EMB in General Management and Honors Diploma in Freelance Journalism and Feature Writing. His analytical reports and human interest stories have appeared on various print and online news services around the world.