March 21, 2014
Syria is much in the news lately: a violent civil war, terrible human suffering, chemical weapons, al-Qaeda involvement, the Russians and Iran. What are the origins of this conflict and what is the US doing, besides the diplomatic efforts you read about in the newspaper? Tom Staal of USAID will provide some historical background on Syria, an understanding of the ethnic, religious and political roots of the crisis, and an update on US humanitarian response to the people.
Thomas Staal has spent most of his career working overseas in international development. He has worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) since 1988, beginning in Sudan as an Emergency Program Officer. In the early 1990s he worked in the USAID regional office in Kenya, managing food aid and doing project development throughout eastern and southern Africa. From 1996 to 2002 he worked in the USAID West Bank and Gaza program, providing assistance to the Palestinians, focusing on water supply projects, as well as local community development. Between 2003 and 2004, he served as the USAID Regional Representative for Southern Iraq, overseeing all USAID projects in that part of the country. He also served as the Deputy Director of the Food For Peace Office in Washington, and he was the Director of the Iraq Reconstruction Office in Washington and USAID Mission Director in Lebanon. Mr. Staal served as the USAID Mission Director in Ethiopia from 2009 to 2012, and Mission Director in Iraq from 2012 to 2013. He is currently Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.
Before joining USAID, Mr. Staal worked for World Vision International as their Country Representative in Sudan in the mid-1980s. He also worked for ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia in the late 1970s and the early 80s in the company’s government relations department. Mr. Staal has a Master’s Degree in Comparative Politics (Middle East focus) from Columbia University and a M.Sc. in National Strategic Security Studies from the National Defense University. As the son of missionaries, he grew up in Iraq and Kuwait, and attended boarding school in India.