Boko Haram: Beyond #BringBackOurGirls

Boko Haram: Beyond #BringBackOurGirls

Wednesday, May 28

Opening Remarks:

Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence


J. Peter Pham
Atlantic Council

Lauren Ploch Blanchard
Congressional Research Service

Rudolph Atallah
Atlantic Council & White Mountain Research


Caitlin Poling
Foreign Policy Initiative

To hear the full audio version of this event, please click here.

Speaker Biographies
Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS) is a second term congressman from the 4th District. As a teenager, he enrolled at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He graduated first in his class from West Point in 1986 and then served as a cavalry officer patrolling the Iron Curtain before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served with the 2nd Squadron, 7th Cavalry in the Fourth Infantry Division. After earning a law degree, Rep. Pompeo returned to his mother's family roots in South Central Kansas and founded Thayer Aerospace, where he served as CEO for more than a decade providing components for commercial and military aircraft. He then became President of Sentry International, an oilfield equipment manufacturing, distribution, and service company. Rep. Pompeo serves on two major committees: Energy and Commerce, which oversees energy, health care, manufacturing, and telecommunications, and the House Intelligence Committee, which oversees America’s intelligence-gathering efforts. In Congress, he has focused on freeing private enterprise to succeed as well as defending our individual Constitutional rights. Rep. Pompeo has been at the center of debates regarding fiscal responsibility and halting regulatory overreach, particularly with respect to production agriculture, and reducing the imposition of burdens on entrepreneurs and small businesses.

J. Peter Pham is the director of the Atlantic Council's Africa Center. Dr. Pham was previously senior vice president of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, and editor of its bimonthly journal, American Foreign Policy Interests. He was also a tenured associate professor of justice studies, political science, and Africana studies at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, where he was director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs. He has served on the Senior Advisory Group of the U.S. Africa Command since its creation. Dr. Pham is the author of more than 300 essays and reviews and the author, editor, or translator of over a dozen books, including, most recently, Somalia: Fixing Africa's Most Failed State (Tafelberg, 2013; coauthored with Greg Mills and David Kilcullen). Pham also contributes to a number of publications including The National Interest and Foreign Policy, and regularly appears as a commentator on broadcast and print media outlets including CBS, PBS, VOA, CNN, the Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NPR, the BBC, Reuters, the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Washington Times, USA Today, Newsweek, US News & World Report, The Times of London, New Statesman, Maclean's, Le Monde, and Le Temps. Dr. Pham is the incumbent vice president of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa (ASMEA), an academic organization which represents more than 1,300 scholars of Middle Eastern and African Studies at more than 300 colleges and universities in the United States and overseas, and is editor-in-chief of ASMEA's Journal of the Middle East and Africa. A staunch advocate of robust American engagement with Africa, Pham served as member of the USAID-funded International Republican Institute (IRI) delegation monitoring the national elections in Liberia in 2005. He also served on the IRI pre-election assessment (2006) and election observation delegations to Nigeria (2007, 2011) and Somaliland (2010). He is also a frequent guest lecturer on African affairs at the Foreign Service Institute, the U.S. Army War College, the Joint Special Operations University, and other U.S. government professional educational institutions. The Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for Defence and Security Studies, the Brenthurst Foundation, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation awarded Dr. Pham the 2008 Nelson Mandela International Prize for African Security and Development for his study "Imagining Congo Secure and Stable.
Lauren Ploch Blanchard is a specialist in African Affairs with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), where she provides nonpartisan analysis on African political, military and diplomatic affairs, and on U.S. policy toward the region, to Members of Congress and their staff. Ms. Blanchard’s portfolio focuses on East Africa and Nigeria, and on security issues and U.S. military engagement on the continent—she has written extensively on these topics and has testified before Congress on terrorist threats in the region, including both Boko Haram and al Shabaab, and on the U.S. military’s Africa Command. She also speaks regularly at academic institutions and international policy fora in the United States and abroad. Prior to joining CRS, Ms. Blanchard managed governance programs in East and Southern Africa. She has supervised and conducted training on political party and coalition strengthening, parliamentary support, civil society capacity building, leadership development, and public opinion research. Previously, Ms. Blanchard served as a legislative assistant in the United States Senate. She holds a master's degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University. She also holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science and Classical Studies, with a minor in African Studies, from the University of Florida.

Rudolph Atallah is a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center and CEO of White Mountain Research, a small business providing tailored security solutions to clients focused on Africa and the Middle East.  A twenty-one-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who retired in 2009, Mr. Atallah’s military career included aviation, special operations, intelligence, and counterterrorism. In his last military posting, he served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as Africa Counterterrorism Director (2003-2009), while concurrently holding positions as East Africa Director (2003-2007) and Country Director for Morocco and Tunisia (2007-2009). His responsibilities included advising the Secretary of Defense and other senior U.S. officials on counterterrorism policy/strategy while serving as an advisor to the U.S. Department of State and numerous U.S. embassies across Africa. Upon his retirement, Atallah was the only Officer in the AF to hold three concurrent regional designations as a Foreign Area Officer for Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.  A native of Lebanon, and fluent in Arabic and French, Mr. Atallah holds a bachelor’s of science degree in electrical and biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a MS in international relations from Troy University.

Caitlin Poling serves as the director of government relations at the Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI). Prior to joining FPI, she worked in the House of Representatives, most recently serving as a legislative assistant to Congressman Mike Pompeo (R-KS), focusing on foreign affairs, human rights, homeland security, and immigration. In this capacity, she led initiatives with the International Religious Freedom Caucus for the rights of persecuted religious minorities in Hungary and Nigeria. She writes on Africa and counterterrorism issues, and her work has been published in U.S. News and World Report, e-International Relations, and The Huffington Post. Ms. Poling was featured in Diplomatic Courier’s “Top 99 Under 33 Foreign Policy Leaders” in 2013. In 2012, she received her Master of Arts in Security Studies with honors from the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University. She wrote her master’s thesis on Boko Haram and affiliated terrorist groups in the Sahel. Caitlin graduated summa cum laude from Ashland University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, International Studies, and French and was a John M. Ashbrook Scholar.


Mission Statement

The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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