Vanda Felbab-Brown is a senior fellow in the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She is also the director of the Brookings project, “Improving Global Drug Policy: Comparative Perspectives Beyond UNGASS 2016,” and co-director of another Brookings project, “Reconstituting Local Orders.” Felbab-Brown is an expert on international and internal conflicts and nontraditional security threats, including insurgency, organized crime, urban violence, and illicit economies. Her fieldwork and research have covered, among others, Afghanistan, South Asia, Burma, Indonesia, the Andean region, Mexico, Morocco, Somalia, and eastern Africa.

Felbab-Brown is the author of “The Extinction Market: Wildlife Trafficking and How to Counter It” (Hurst, 2018); “Narco Noir: Mexico’s Cartels, Cops, and Corruption” (The Brookings Institution Press, 2019, forthcoming); “Militants, Criminals, and Warlords: The Challenge of Local Governance in an Age of Disorder” (The Brookings Institution Press, Fall 2017; co-authored with Shadi Hamid and Harold Trinkunas); “Aspiration and Ambivalence: Strategies and Realities of Counterinsurgency and State-Building in Afghanistan” (Brookings Institution Press, 2013); and “Shooting Up: Counterinsurgency and the War on Drugs” (Brookings Institution Press, 2010). She is also the author of numerous policy reports, academic articles, and opinion pieces. A frequent commentator in U.S. and international media, Felbab-Brown regularly provides congressional testimony on these issues. She has also been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of her scholarly and policy contributions.

Among her recent publications are: “Can Colombia eradicate coca by drones? The illusion of a technological fix,” The Brookings Institution, July 24, 2018; “Death by bad implementation? The Duque administration and Colombia’s peace deal(s),” The Brookings Institution, July 24 2018; “Andrés Manuel López Obrador and a new era of politics in Mexico,” The Brookings Institution, July 3 2018; “The hard, hot, dusty road to accountability, reconciliation, and peace in Somalia,” United Nations University, June 2018; “In Nigeria, we don’t want them back,” United Nations University, June 2018; “How synthetic opioids can radically change global illegal drug markets and foreign policy,” The Brookings Institution, April 30, 2018; “Opioids of the Masses: Stopping an American Epidemic From Going Global,” Foreign Affairs, April 2018; “When Terrorists and Criminals Govern Better Than Governments,” The Atlantic, April 4, 2018; “Nigeria’s Troubling Counterinsurgency Strategy Against Boko Haram: How the Military and Militias Are Fueling Insecurity,” Foreign Affairs, March 30, 2018; “After the ivory bans, diligent enforcement is needed,” The Brookings Institution, March 2, 2018; and “Bone of contention: Pragmatism versus ideology in countering poaching and wildlife trafficking,” The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, March 1, 2018.

Felbab-Brown received her doctorate in political science from MIT and her bachelor’s in government from Harvard University.

Council on Foreign Relations, member
Crime Law Enforcement, member, advisory board
Global Initiative Against Organized Crime, network member
New York University Center for International Cooperation, U.S.-China Dialogue on Afghanistan and Pakistan, member
Taliban Resources Project, member, advisory board

202.797.6304 — Research Assistant
202.797.6103 — Foreign Policy Program
Crime & Criminal Justice
Drug Trafficking & Counter-Narcotics Policy
Latin America & the Caribbean
South Asia
Terrorism & Extremism
Foreign Policy
Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence
Africa Security Initiative
Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Initiative
Latin America Initiative
Additional Expertise Areas
Drugs and other illicit economies
Counternarcotics policies
Civil war
Conflict management
Stability operations and reconstruction
Positive versus coercive inducement strategies
Latin America
Past Position
Assistant Professor, Security Studies Program, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (2007-2008)
Ph.D., MIT, 2007
B.A., Harvard University, 1999