Episode 43: with Allan Wind discussing working for the US Government around the world and managing international risks

Today we are joined by Allan Wind.  Allan is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer from the US Agency for International Development, often referred to as USAID.  Allan worked with USAID on assignments between 1990 to 2019 in Peru, Nicaragua, Angola, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan and South Africa. He provided oversight to US Government foreign aid development and humanitarian assistance and supported US Ambassadors as part of the Embassy Country Teams. In South Africa, Allan helped establish the Southern Africa Regional Leadership Center as part of President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative and contributed to other youth development efforts and business incubators.

His recent book has been a best-seller on Amazon and is available in paperback and ebook.  You can find the book Andean Adventures: An Unexpected Search for Meaning, Purpose and Discovery Across Three Countries online at Amazon.

The International Risk Podcast Transcript

Harriet Tyler  0:09 

Hi, you’re listening to the international risk podcast. This podcast is for CEOs, board members risk and compliance officers, security advisors, and anyone interested in improving operations.  On this podcast we had from the traditional to the lacking. From renowned corporate risk experts to former spies and Special Forces soldiers. There is something to learn about the way we perceive, manage and mitigate risk from all of our guests.

Your host, Dominic Bowen will ask the questions that you will want the answers to. If you know Dominic, then you know that he is well acquainted with risk. Dominic has successfully established operations in most of the major war zones, and disaster affected countries over the last 20 years. He is no stranger to risk and uncertainty. I’m joined by our excellent guests, he’ll reveal innovative ideas on how you can ensure your organization thrives in areas with high risk he

Dominic Bowen  2:01 

Welcome to the podcast today Allan.

Allan Alonzo Wind is a retired senior Foreign Service Officer from the US Agency for International Development, often referred to as USAID.  Allan worked on and off with USAID on assignments from the 1990s all the way to 2019. Working in Peru, Nicaragua, Angola, Nigeria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and South Africa. And Alan’s provided oversight to the US government foreign aid and development as well as humanitarian assistance and support to UN ambassadors as part of the embassy country teams. In South Africa, Allan helped establish the Southern African Regional Leadership Center as part of President Obama’s Young African Leadership Initiative. And he also contributed to other youth development efforts and business incubators. He’s also worked in various senior roles, but Save the Children, Care, Plan international in Latin America and the United Kingdom. And his most recent book, Andean Aventures and unUexpected Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Discovery was a bestseller on Amazon. It’s available in paperback and ebook and in English and in Spanish. So look out for that book. So can you tell me about your current role? What is it you’re doing today?

Allan Wind  3:34 

Well, lately over the course of the last couple of months, I’ve been doing podcasts like today with you. I’ve been preparing actually some consultancies that are joining in on teams to look at some different USAID procurements missions in Latin America. And I’ve been working on what I hope will be the next chapters, the next books to follow. Andean Adventures is talking about my experiences in Africa, and Iraq and Afghanistan in more detail.

Dominic Bowen  4:06 

Fantastic, well, it sounds really exciting.

Allan Wind  4:08 

It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve been had a lot of engagement from people and getting contacted from people I haven’t heard for many years from different countries.

Dominic Bowen  4:17 

That’s one of the things I always appreciate about working overseas. It’s the relationships you develop, and the fact that you’ve got people that you can actually call friends that you’re really quite comfortable to call friends all around the world. It’s such a rich experience.

Allan Wind  4:28 

So true. And in the universe of social media. It’s incredible how people take the opportunity to reach out.

Dominic Bowen  4:36 

In Australia, there’s a real culture everyone volunteers, whether you volunteer during the bushfires, or whether you volunteer at the local footy club, or whether you’re volunteering at home, I’m sure it’s just a real culture where everyone does some sort of volunteering, it’s just not even expected. It’s just part of everyone’s life. But that’s not the case in all cultures. But I know in America, there’s a really high esteem and respect for people that have volunteered with the Peace Corps. Tell us about some of your experiences there.

Allan Wind  5:02 

Well, you know, growing up as a kid, I always had this idea that Peace Corps would be an important thing that I wanted to do. I don’t know if it was because I was still caught up in the memory of President Kennedy who was assassinated, but I was just four years old or so. But it was idealism continued to imbue the late 60s and early 70s on some level and that of his brother, Bobby, but it just seemed like something that I should do. Unfortunately, that culture, voluntourism, the idea of national service is so present in so many countries, but not to the same degree by any means in the United States. And I think it’s tragic, that that’s not the case. I think it’s a real gap for us as a culture and as a people. But I had plans to go into Peace Corps after college, I went to the University of Chicago, my expectation was that, as I said earlier, I would go serve two years in Peace Corps and then returned to the States, perhaps to a political career, perhaps to working in the area of health policy, where I did some of my degree work in, but the experiences proved to be transformative. I had good experiences, I had learning experiences, I found myself in some dangerous situations. But for the most part 90% of it was extraordinary enriching in terms of the kind of people that I had opportunities to interact with. And what ended up happening that that propelled me into a decision to stay on in Ecuador for another few years. Following that decided to stay on longer. When I was headhunted to go work in Bolivia, for five years,

Dominic Bowen  6:41 

you mentioned very cursory then that, you know, you read in some some high risk situations, you know, if you work in enough high risk countries, and you know, put yourself in that position eventually, you know, sometimes it’s a bit of a numbers game, you can do a lot of things to mitigate the risk and to lower the likelihood of you being a victim or a survivor of certain events. But invariably, sometimes a number does come up with anything. Do you still remember now that that occurred to you when you were working in the field?

Allan Wind  7:07 

Well, on a relatively modest level, when I was a volunteer and living in Ecuador, which was really the start of my time overseas, and which was helping me to kind of gel that sense of commitment and vocation in terms of continuing that work. I recount one story, one anecdote in the book about my experiences, rather engaging in some alcohol ingestion with friends in a village in wenfei, coastal sequitur, coming out of the bar at two o’clock in the morning, three o’clock in the morning, crossing the central Village Square, and all of a sudden hearing the sounds

going by, and somehow the lizard brain took over and I hit the ground, and realized that in fact, they were bullets flying. And after a few seconds, probably with seemed to be an eternity, I was able to look up and see that on one side of the plaza. They were a group of drunken police. And on the other side of the plaza, there were a group of drunken soldiers from a nearby fort of the Ecuadorians. And they were busy taking potshots at each other. Luckily, they were even more alcohol impaired than I was, I didn’t get hit nor did anyone else. But it was a bit of a warning experience in terms of how danger could come from anywhere. I had other experiences in Ecuador relating to kind of giving me an open VISTA to the racism that sometimes could exist. In Ecuador. I recall one experience where I was at a training center with a group of other Peace Corps volunteers. I and a girlfriend of mine who was an African American Peace Corps Volunteer living up in the northern part of, of Ecuador, which has a lot of descendants of slaves that had escaped to 300 years ago, she and I had gone into these thermal baths near the Training Center in the early morning. And we were being affectionate with each other kind of PDA is a little bit of gentle kissing and all of that nothing unusual or different from the cultural milieu we were in. But all of a sudden, we found ourselves being harassed by who I found out to be apparently this young Colonel white skinned Ecuadorian Colonel, who, as it turned out, had called the police to arrest us and to take us out of the pool area, the thermal baths, not back to the training center, but with accusations that we were somehow doing things that we shouldn’t be doing. We ended up being taken to the lockup in downtown Quito, and we ended up having to spend actually an overnight experience My friend was on the women’s side of the jail. And actually had a very pleasant experience with the female inmates until we were bailed out the next day by folks from the embassy. But I had a bit of a run in where I was advised by this one guy who befriended me to just not say anything to not betray my gringo accent. And he was going to spread the story that I was actually a Colombian, m 19 rebel, who they picked up on the border to kind of intimidate the 30 or 40 other men who were in the lockup and there was some fights that night, as you know, someone was trying to climb into my bunk bed and do God knows what, luckily, I was able to defend myself, the guy who was in the bunk bed below me, got all bloodied up from helping as well. And I ended up being passed to shift to protect myself for the rest of the night. So that was a sobering experience to be put in, perhaps not a necessarily a life threatening situation, but certainly a very, very unpleasant one, until we ended up being released by the police the next day. So there were a series of experiences like that, but for the most part, relatively safe, Bolivia, very safe country in terms of my experiences, but I had, you know, one kind of reminder of the fragility of our presence in a particular country when the project that I was directing, and I was directing what proved to be a fairly large USAID funded project in southeast in Bolivia, that was gaining a lot of success. Over the course of time that I was there, we were recruiting a lot of people working, not only in public health, but also in integrated Rural Development, agriculture, animal husbandry. This guy in this town with a bad Spanish accent short, crewcut ended up coming up to me in a local restaurant, and basically making it known that he wanted to tag along and be part of our project team. He wanted to keep an eye on things. And I said, Excuse me, who are you? Oh, well, I, I worked for the American Embassy. I said, You don’t seem to work for the American Embassy, what agency Are you working for? And of course, he got Sly and shy and didn’t say anything further in terms of identifying. And I said, Look, we can’t bring on anyone who’s going to be up to some sort of agenda, I strongly suggest you get the hell out of here. Then I was I found out from colleagues on the project that they were being contacted by this guy. And they wanted this guy wanted to tag along to our activities. And so I with a another colleague of the project, went to the hotel where he was staying at and we certainly tried to intimidate him to leave the town that we were in wanting that we would let the chief of police know that there was some unsavory character in the town who was up to no good. Well, give it a few days, and I get contacted by telex. And you know, those ancient machines with the long ticker tapes and all of that, ordering me up to La Paz from the USA mission. And that was a bit of an arduous journey taking a train up about 1215 hours, up to Santa Cruz de la Sierra, basically a biggest city in the eastern part of the country and flying up to La Paz. Well, I probably found out that the then US Ambassador who I won’t mention his name, but he was known notoriously as the drugs and thugs ambassador, strongly involved in terms of different interdiction efforts in different countries, was demanding of the US a director that I’d be given what we call the Braniff award, basically a Skyhook to be pulled out of the country declared PNG because somehow I had beaten up and chased out of town, this military intelligence guy who had been in our area of the country, that was a patent false would it simply wasn’t the case. And I explained the circumstances to the USAID staff and the USAID Mission Director, pointing out how I could not allow myself or my team or the project that I was working on to be compromised by some half assed pardon the French intelligence effort that could betray the trust that we had from Bolivian institutions. I worried that in fact, if we were somehow identified with Intel efforts that we ourselves as a program could be kicked out of the country. And in fact, it was against US law, what this guy was trying to do at the time, I wasn’t fully versed at that point in terms of those issues, but it is an issue in Peace Corps as well as USAID to avoid generally that kind of Intel connection with any of our official humanitarian projects. So luckily, the Mission Director went back and explained the situation to the Ambassador, who was quite a character himself, and managed to make it known that no, I was not going to be thrown out of the country. No, I was not an employee at the of the embassy and under his control, where he could do things to me I was an independent, US citizen directing private voluntary organization, NGO trying to carry out a humanitarian and development project out in Eastern, Chaco. So that was a an eye opening experience as well, both on the one side the actions of this military Intel guy, and the ambassador and their framework that they were operating in. And thankfully, the wisdom of the USAID Mission Director and the health officer, who really proved to be a mentor of me over the years, in terms of protecting me,

Dominic Bowen  15:49 

when I’ve certainly never had the pleasure of spending an evening in a keto jail on based on your story. I’ll work very hard to keep it that way. I’m glad you made it out safely.

Allan Wind  15:58 

It was cold. Let me tell you, there were no blankets. There was really no cushion on this metal frame bunk bed, as you can imagine, it was not a happy situation.

Dominic Bowen  16:07 

Yeah, yeah, to be honest, I think I’d put up with the cold if I could guarantee that no one would climb into my bed with me. In a jail cell in another country. I think I’ll put up with a cold if I if I could guarantee that. You mentioned that you started working international public health. And you know, you rose to more senior positions within the US government programs overseas. understand some of the budgets you were managing, we’re an excess of about 300 million US dollars every year. Can you explain or share some ideas with our listeners about the sort of risks that you are focusing on when you are leading programs in excess of $300 million?

Allan Wind  16:42 

Well, of course, it depended on the the country involved I, after serving close to 1520 years and non governmental organizations. I ended up joining USAID as a career Foreign Service officer with a diplomatic passport and remained for about 2022 years in total with with USAID. There, I was responsible progressively with larger offices and programs. In Nicaragua, in Angola, in Nigeria, of course, in Iraq and Afghanistan, before getting to South Africa and each country had its own kind of security issues. Angola had some particular issues, because of the presence of landmines as a result of a little long civil war that had gone on and the war that had been basically fought on a proxy basis between the Cubans and the South Africans. And so that was a security issue for our staff, going to certain parts of the country to be very clear to avoid areas where they remind, luckily, we were able to also have some partners such as a halo trust out of the UK, that were actively involved in the mining. And I think some of those activities, if memory serves was also sponsored by Princess Diana at the time. And then in the case of Nigeria, I was dealing with a situation of parts of the country that were beginning to face episodes of violent extremism, inter community warfare between the Christian and the Muslim communities. So we had to be very mindful of the security and be aware of where we were going in Al Shabaab and the other terrorist groups that were beginning to assert themselves in West Africa. We’re just beginning to look at attacks on the border with Nigeria and Cameroon, in the northeast of Nigeria. So there were certain areas where Diplomatic Security from the embassy wouldn’t allow us to go to and that was part of a actually a narrative that would follow in many of the countries that I would be in where, on the one hand, you would have USAID officers, USAID leadership, trying to find some space some arrangement for allowing either career USAID staff or our account contractors and partners to be able to work in certain areas where Diplomatic Security from the embassy would be increasingly restrictive and would try to force us to hunker down and not go into areas. And usually these areas had some of the most marginalized populations, they were among the most needy, it was critical in my mind that we be able to actually extend our presence and be visible in a positive way in a number of these parts of Nigeria as well as other countries that would follow. I know I had opportunities to engage with the clergy, from the Muslim communities as well as the Christian side in terms of trying to find ways for them to work collaboratively to lower the level of inter community violence and rivalries with the religious tensions that were underway in, in Nigeria, particularly along a dividing line that went across Nigeria from east to west where the Muslim population tended to be to the north and the Christian to the South arac. I served in Iraq twice, once as an officer going in, ultimately to be the senior USA rep on the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Salah hardeen, to Crete, which was in really one of the most violent areas of what was known then as the Sunni triangle in Iraq and ended up having responsibilities from a collaboration I had with the third division of the US Army to cover much of the northern part of the country traveling around and army helicopters getting air support to be able to visit with provincial health and educational authorities in really all of northern Iraq leading up to and including parts of Kurdistan. Unfortunately, in Salah hardeen, where I was actually based at Camp spiker, we had some of the worst efforts in terms of trying to directly attack us forces and any of the Iraqi collaborators that were working with us in different ways. I ran into situations where I would go into to Crete, for meetings with the NGO Federation that had been formed with US government support, and we had to go into lockdown as we were being attacked by extremists at different times. And one time on a visit to to Crete University, the School of Medicine, I ended up being the target for a while of a sniper, who was definitely seen, I guess, had identified me as being the lead civilian, within a team that had gone out to try to provide some support to the medical school and my force protection friends joked around that I was a bit of a bullet magnet, since that happened actually a few times in terms of going out within that area. It was a humbling experience, I never was shot, but actually one of the young soldiers that was with me, that was a top gunner on a striker that I was in ended up being hit along his Kevlar helmet, as I was with him, and luckily didn’t penetrate into the Kevlar. But it certainly shook him up a bit and required, you know, some medical checkups for him afterwards to make sure he was okay. So these are all kinds of sobering experiences. I wasn’t one of the kind of adrenaline junkies that you sometimes find out in the field, I certainly didn’t consider myself to be going out looking for danger. But I did feel strongly committed to the need to be visible, to be present, to demonstrate to the Iraqi civilians and our partners and small civil society organizations that were developing in the aftermath of the war, that we were with them that we were supportive to them, that we were going to continue to provide resources and to provide other means of reinforcement of their work to help amplify the social benefits of the work and not caught run in the face of some sort of initial danger.

Dominic Bowen  23:32 

Yeah, you’re 100% correct. And I know I’ve worked and spoken with a lot of USAID colleagues over the years when we’re working in medium and high risk locations. And they often feel quite hamstrung where everyone else is working and operating in an environment that they’re like the kid with the over protective mum that won’t let them come out and play. And I understand why Diplomatic Security and embassy security can be very conservative. But nevertheless, I understand that must be very hard for USAID employees.

Allan Wind  23:59 

I’m glad to see that there’s been the beginning of a debate again about it. In fact, a report came out earlier this year, from the American Academy of diplomacy, called changing the risk paradigm for us diplomat, and I was participating in a webinar discussing some of these issues. And this had really been a blue ribbon panel that had produced this report that they were talking about within the webinar included a lot of former ambassadors. And I was glad to see that they brought up basically the concern about the State Department’s current risk aversion of higher threat posts and how this obstructs the performance of the most basic functions of a diplomat abroad in terms of influencing host governments, in terms of explaining defending and advancing us policies and objectives. I mean, I feel that so strongly from the the Certainly the development assistance point of view about how much of what we tried to do, could easily be undermined through an overly protective situation from Diplomatic Security, which we could only partially ameliorate by allowing some of our local partners and contacts to go out. Sometimes, there’s frankly no substitute for being able to show an American face, and to hear an American voice speaking in support of a given policy.

Dominic Bowen  25:33 

And you mentioned the Sunni triangle earlier, I spent a year driving through and around the Sunni triangle. And we developed some really effective and innovative risk monitoring tools that enabled us to rapidly assess the security and risk situation in many of the cities within the triangle. And certainly without effective risk monitoring, our decision making process would have been so much less effective. You know, understanding and monitoring risk indicators is so important for all companies and government agencies. Ellen, what risk mitigation strategies do you think companies should be looking at to help improve their operations and minimize the risks that they’re facing?

Allan Wind  26:12 

Well, certainly, communication and good Intel is, is essential, that’s probably got to be number one. I mean, you’ve got to have situational awareness, you’ve got to be fully aware, on a 360 degree basis in terms of what’s happening. And you can’t rely on a particular point of view that may be coming from one or the other local contact that you may have, you have to have a more sophisticated way of trying to get a perspective on things. I think communication with local leaders with traditional leaders with local government can be an invaluable tool in terms of gauging whether or not you’re going to have the full support of these local interlocutors, in terms of addressing a given situation. You can’t rely only on national authorities, national security forces national police to necessarily make decisions on that, and you can’t rely on what necessarily Diplomatic Security is going to pull out. Because sometimes, their picture can only be partially valid within a situation, I think it’s very important to try and get something that’s more sophisticated, you’ve got to use as a tool, some common sense in terms of weighing risks, risk, you know, as you rightly say, it’s an issue of risk management and what is risk management mean? It means being able to weigh to look at, okay, these are the risks. But then these are also the things on the positive side that we need to get accomplished. And you need to be able to put that into perspective.

Dominic Bowen  27:53 

Yeah, the best business leaders that I know can certainly answer the question I’m about to ask you. But it’s definitely a question that many business leaders surprisingly still cannot answer. What are the benefits that a company can expect to see from properly managing risk effectively, whether it’s on a humanitarian program or for government agency or for profit corporation?

Allan Wind  28:15 

Well, of course, businesses have a different set of factors and calculations to make compared to a government entity. Certainly, they’ve got to weigh the different costs involved in a in a different way, the cost of security, the cost of different opportunities in terms of being present within a given situation. I saw that to a certain extent in terms of the decision making process in countries like Angola and Nigeria by the extractive petroleum industry companies, Chevron and Exxon Mobil, and BP, of course, any totaal other multinational firms that had to make decisions in terms of how involved they were going to be with local communities and how they were going to deploy their staff within a given situation. Interestingly enough, I found that many of the at least in post Benghazi phenomena, I saw that many companies were probably even more conservative and careful in terms of their risk management strategies, in terms of protecting their staff and avoiding any possible situation that could put staff at risk within given situations. And that could also lead to abrupt departures from different areas if they perceive that a situation was simply too insecure. I think that changed over time as the US government tended to kind of become much more risk averse, much more concerned with what could happen. We kind of backed away from the concept of an expeditionary Foreign Service. Condoleezza Rice had tried to espouse at the beginning of the Bush administration, and in practical terms, the reality on the ground, that was true for many diplomats within the state department within USAID in the 80s, and 90s. Some argue that the security situation itself also deteriorated and devolved in the last 20 years compared to before 911. But I think that’s a little bit facile, I think there are still some lessons learned to be gained by what we’re able to accomplish in years past, by avoiding going into a situation with these high profile, super armored vehicles and huge battalions of force protection, security, and trying to be more understated, you know, you were talking about the Sunni triangle. And I remember, during the first time that I was in Iraq, and for that matter, even the second time around, we had some different contractors that actually had civilian Americans, as well as Europeans and Australians, you know, working within the local economy functioning very well, you know, traveling across roads that, of course, Diplomatic Security, later on would never allow us to go. But they use, you know, these techniques in terms of engaging with local leaders, traditional leaders, being understated in terms of their presence, not calling attention to themselves necessarily, but looking for ways to be able to function effectively under high threat situations. And they and they were remarkably successful.

Dominic Bowen  31:48 

I’ve certainly seen some really successful low profile operations. And I think it’s a course of action, that often is certainly the best course of action to be pursued. You mentioned land mines earlier on. And it reminded me of when we first went into Afghanistan immediately after September 11. And because of the speed of operations, we didn’t have all the intelligence that we would have liked. And it led to situations, sometimes humorous, and sadly, sometimes deadly, can you perhaps to tell our listeners about your experience of working in crisis zone and how this has actually impacted your risk appetite?

Allan Wind  32:22 

I would say, I’m on the other side of that now. So I don’t expect to go back into that sort of high threat situation. Given the fact that I’ve now retired from the senior Foreign Service, it remains as a factor that may occasionally come up as I coach and mentor current officers, in terms of the kinds of challenges they may face. I’m trying to, to work with a leadership coaching firm that used to be part of the federal executive Institute in Charlottesville, Virginia, in terms of being able to provide that kind of support to current officers. But I think until there are changes made at the highest level, in terms of understanding the risk paradigm in and taking appropriate decisions, these questions are going to be handled from a kind of hunker down, stay in the bunker kind of approach. But nevertheless, the way the US military pulled out without any warning to Afghan authorities, at least from what’s being reported. And I saw this news report with Richard angle, from NBC News, you know, who often goes into these kind of high threat situations, bicycling around the remains of what was Bagram Air Force Base, and showing how the US military had snuck out and had completely disconnected the power making the facilities of Bagram useless to our Afghan counterparts, our former Afghan hosts, a number of whom, who we interviewed on camera who were clearly containing the anger and frustration. And that strikes me as almost criminal to see that kind of departure. But to see the US military pull out the way they did, and strip things bear almost makes me think certain people within the US military, certain decision makers, again, kind of being super conservative, super cautious, and ignoring how this could undermine our larger objectives visa be Afghanistan rather than leaving in place, at least something prepared and developed so that the Afghans could in fact take over, you know, it’s been 20 years. And why is it that they have not been able to provide that foundation, that level of preparation, that level of training the level of resources necessary to you sure that the AMA would really be in a secure place when US forces were removed. So,

Dominic Bowen  35:07 

look, I certainly understand the need to withdraw US, UK and Australian soldiers from Afghanistan, you know, we have been there for a very long time. But the risk management process around Afghanistan and the war in Afghanistan over the last 20 years, certainly leaves room for improvement, only have to look back to 2009 and 10. So it’s working on, what, 1011 years ago, and I was meeting with a local provincial governor in Afghanistan. And I asked him what his plans were, and he gave a fairly vanilla generic answer, that didn’t really mean much. And after establishing, you know, a closer relationship with him, and you know, building a bit of trust and bond, I asked him again, what are your plans? Because you know, that we’re not staying here forever, you know, that the international forces will leave Afghanistan, what are your plans? What are your plans for the community? We paused, and for a really long time, actually, and we just sat there in silence. And after a while, he looked up, and he just said, quietly, the Taliban will come back, and I will be killed. And it was as simple as that. And this was a nightmare. It was tragic. And I knew that. And that’s why, you know, I was I mean, what are you gonna do? You know, whilst we’re here, whilst we’re training, whilst we’re supporting, you know, there’s possibilities, and I don’t expect any country to sit in Afghanistan forever, because we’re the only way but, and that’s where I come back to my point about, you know, the risk management needs to be better. I mean, if you go into a country and you pull it apart, and then you start to build it back together, you can’t just look at your watch and say, well, there’s 20 years time for us to withdraw. And and I remember the Taliban, remember, you’d speak with the Taliban, and now with them, like, you know, we’ve got time on our hands. You guys were watches. But we’ve got time on our hands. You guys have democracies, you can’t stay here forever. We can. And they were totally correct. But we knew that from the start. Absolutely. We didn’t change, we didn’t change the way we were building and fighting and constructing and building relationships, I think certainly leaves room for improvement. And that’s not to take away for a second from from all the brave actions of women and men in Afghanistan that have been doing a tremendous job. I think it is a little bit a little bit of a lost opportunity for many people.

Allan Wind  37:13 

It’s a huge lost opportunity. It’s dreadful, and if you really would have drilled down, I mean, it really makes it seem that the billions and trillions that have been invested in some of these situations, were almost being thrown down the drain. And it’s not just Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, you’ll see such similar situations as well, in terms of the handling of times and in Yemen, although I think, you know, there’s been a greater conservatism there as well, in terms of the US posture, and and certainly an over reliance on the situation with the Saudis for years. And then, you know, looking across North Africa and North West Africa, the situation in Nigeria, I mean, to see, again, the extremists grabbing, what was it like 140 150 kids out of a school? I mean, how many times has this story of this school and Chibok been repeated, where hundreds and hundreds of girls, you know, are just kidnapped into the ranks of these terrorists and extremists. And the local authorities, you know, seem completely unable or unwilling to address the situation. I think it really points to on a larger scale, as an international community, the way we have not been able to address elite capture in so many of these countries, in terms of building truly democratic, truly participatory structures, and institutions to be able to try and prevent the misadventures and poor decisions by military and and other authoritarians and a range of countries that terrorize their population or blithely allow extremists to to operate without any kind of serious consequences.

Dominic Bowen  39:11 

Yeah, I mean, you speak about elite capture, and you talk about genuine democracy. And we know the the recent killing of the Haitian president more say, you know, I worked in Haiti in response to the devastating Hurricane Matthew and I was also there again, just before the last election that was in Haiti, when President Mercer was actually elected and, and that is a just a phenomenal environment. And it’s, I genuinely think it’s one of the highest risk environments I’ve actually worked in much more than Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan. I think Haiti is certainly up there. I know, just down from the hotel where I was staying on one of my trips to Haiti on three separate evenings. men were killed in separate incidents with our set on fire with car tires and just you know, just horrific, horrific acts. I think Haitian politics is certainly for decades and decades, and perhaps ironically been as chaotic and unstable as You know, development within what could be and what should be an absolutely beautiful country. I mean, it should be a mecca of tourism and development. I mean, it has the potential to be so amazing.

Allan Wind  40:12 

I went into Haiti a bit while I was in the Dominican Republic with care, the area around Jeremy, the kind of Southwest claw of Haiti was still very lush and green compared to other parts of the country. And I had tremendous respect and admiration for the Haitian people, Haitian communities, where I visited, and the Haitian parties along the border.

Dominic Bowen  40:37 

That was a really great conversation now and and there’s a lot more things I’d like to unpack with you. So I think we’re gonna have to have you back on the show for another interview.

Allan Wind  40:45 

Thank you very much. It’s been great enjoyment on my side as well, to have the chance to, to share with you, we certainly went across the world in terms of looking at carpal pool situations that I think can be found in so much of the developing world.

Dominic Bowen  41:04 

Yeah, that’s correct. We will link to your book in the show notes. I think we’ll have to get you back on The International Risk Podcast to to unpack some of the learnings from that too. I really appreciate it the conversation with Alan’s today and learning how he successfully managed risk when leading large operations in challenging environments, and also theory his thoughts on the benefits of successfully managing risk.

Harriet Tyler  41:27 

You’ve been listening to the international risk podcast hosted by Dominic Bowen. Please go to wherever you download your podcasts and give this podcast a five star review. Your positive reviews on this podcast and subscribing to future download is critical for our success. If you know someone that has experienced successfully working with risk, has a great story to share and would like to come on the show. Send us an email at contact at international risk. podcast.com Thank you for listening and join us again next week for your fix of risk related stories.

1 thought on “Episode 43: with Allan Wind discussing working for the US Government around the world and managing international risks

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