2020 – Discussion on African, Latin American, Middle Eastern and European Issues
On December 2, 2020 the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan and the American Academy of Diplomacy co-hosted a discussion panel to enhance public understanding of critical foreign policy areas. This panel focused on African, Latin American, Middle Eastern and European issues featuring Ambassadors Dawn Liberi, Hugo Llorens, Alexander Vershbow and Ronald Neumann.
Dawn M. Liberi is a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Career Minister, who served as U.S. Ambassador to Burundi from 2012 to 2016. Ambassador Liberi started her career in Africa where she served in five posts with USAID over a span of twenty years, focusing on key development issues. Serving as the USAID Mission Director in Nigeria (2002-2005), she managed a $100 million program of assistance and brokered a $20 million public-private sector alliance to fund community development activities. As USAID Mission Director in Uganda (1998-2002), Ambassador Liberi managed one of the largest HIV/AIDS and micro-enterprise programs in sub-Saharan Africa, helping to significantly reduce HIV/AIDS prevalence and assisting Uganda to develop high value exports.
Other USAID assignments include: Associate Assistant Administrator in the Global Bureau, Population, Health and Nutrition Office (1994-1998); USAID Deputy Mission Director in Ghana (1992-1994); and USAID Population, Health and Nutrition Officer in Senegal and Niger (1981-1987). Starting in 2005, Ambassador Liberi focused on stabilization and civilian-military integration. As USAID Mission Director in Iraq (2005-2006) she managed a $5.2 billion program of governance and economic development activities. As USAID Executive Civil-Military Counselor, she served as Senior Development Advisor to the Commander of the U.S. Central Command (2007-2008).
From 2009 to 2011, Ambassador Liberi was the Coordinator for the Interagency Provincial Affairs Office at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, responsible for managing over 400 civilian positions outside Kabul and implementing governance and economic activities. She also served as the Senior Civilian Representative for the Combined Joint Task-Force 82 at Bagram Airfield Afghanistan, where she was the civilian equivalent of the Commanding General, responsible for coordination of over 20,000 civilian and military staff. In 2012 Ambassador Liberi served as the Senior Assistance Coordinator at U.S. Embassy/Tripoli.
Ambassador Liberi holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hampshire College and Master of Public Health degree from the University of California at Berkeley. She is a Distinguished graduate of the Industrial College of the Armed Forces at the National Defense University, where she focused on national security issues. Ambassador Liberi is the recipient of two Distinguished Honor Awards and several Superior and Meritorious Honor Awards. She was awarded the U.S. Army Superior Civilian Service Award, as well as the Medaille D’Or (Gold Medal) by the French Government, and the Army Iron Cross by the Polish Government, for her work in Afghanistan. Ambassador Liberi speaks fluent French, is an avid African art collector and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Hugo Llorens is a recently retired (December 31, 2017) U.S. Ambassador. He currently makes his home in Marco Island, Florida. On a part-time basis, he does international business and security affairs consulting. Llorens provides advice to U.S. and international firms on political, trade and investment matters pertaining to markets in Latin America, Europe, South Asia and the Western Pacific. He utilizes his 36 years of diplomatic experience and leverages his network of global contacts to enhance his clients’ business prospects. He also does public speaking on leadership and foreign affairs issues, and is currently writing a book about his diplomatic experiences.
In 2016-2017, Llorens served as the Special Charge D’Affaires and Chief of Mission in Kabul, Afghanistan. In Kabul he led the largest U.S. Embassy in the world with a staff of 8,500 U.S., Afghan and Third Country National employees representing 22 U.S. government agencies. During his tenure in Afghanistan, Llorens spearheaded the U.S. diplomatic effort in a priority conflict-ridden nation in both the Obama and Trump Administrations. He worked closely with the incoming Trump national security team in developing a new strategic approach towards Afghanistan that encompasses governance, military and security, development and trade and investment components.
Prior to his tenure in Afghanistan (2013-2016), Llorens was the principal officer in Sydney, Australia, the United States’ oldest diplomatic mission in the Asia Pacific region (established in 1836). In Sydney he served as the lead U.S. diplomat responsible for promoting trade and investment and managing U.S. ties with the vast and resource-rich states of New South Wales and Queensland, which together account for over 50% of Australia’s GDP. Sydney is the business and financial capital of Australia and is the corporate headquarters for the lion’s share of major U.S., and Australian firms operating in this rapidly growing Asia-Pacific nation.
Ambassador Hugo Llorens was the Assistant Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan from May 2012 to June a 2013. In that senior position, he served as the Chief Operating Officer of the largest Embassy in the world, and played a prominent role in negotiating the Bilateral Security Agreement, which defines the long-term U.S.-Afghan relationship following the end of the large U.S. combat presence.
Previous to his first assignment in Afghanistan, Llorens was Ambassador-in-Residence and a faculty advisor for diplomatic statecraft at the National War College in Fort McNair Washington DC — the pre-eminent educational institution training senior military officers and diplomats on the art and science of grand strategy. At the War College, Llorens directed an effort to strengthen the strategic leadership components of the curriculum. He also provided substantive expertise on diplomatic statecraft, governance, rule of law, combatting organized crime, Western Hemisphere issues, and international trade/investment/energy issues.
Llorens served as U.S. Ambassador to Honduras from September 2008 to July 2011. In Tegucigalpa he was a key Administration player in managing the Honduran coup crisis of 2009. His on the ground efforts resulted in the successful negotiation of the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord, the holding of free and fair elections, and the restoration of the democratic and constitutional order. In Honduras he led an Embassy team of 450 American and Honduran staff representing 12 U.S. government agencies with a combined operating budget of $20 million, plus 175 Peace Corps volunteers. He also coordinated a combined USAID and MCC economic development portfolio totaling $150 million in annual disbursements, plus sizeable military and counter narcotics assistance programs.
Prior to his nomination and confirmation as Ambassador, he served for two years as the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) at the American Embassy in Madrid, where he took up his duties on September 1, 2006. Ambassador Llorens was also Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he served for three years from August 2003 until July 2006.
From 2002-2003, Mr. Llorens was Director of Andean Affairs at the NSC, where he was the principal advisor to the President and National Security Advisor on issues pertaining to Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. Prior to the NSC, he served for three years (1999-2002) as Principal Officer at the Consulate General in Vancouver, Canada. In Vancouver, he created a novel multi-agency “Law Enforcement Hub” that included the opening of FBI, ATF, U.S. Customs, Secret Service, and Regional Security offices to work with Canadian counterparts on counterterrorism and international crime investigations.
From 1997-1999, Mr. Llorens was Deputy Director of the Office of Economic Policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs where he helped launch the FTAA negotiations in 1998. As a veteran diplomat who began his career in 1981, he has served in economic, commercial, consular and counter drug positions in Tegucigalpa, La Paz, Asunción, San Salvador, and Manila.
Mr. Llorens received his Master of Science in National Security Studies, National War College in 1997; Master of Arts in Economics, University of Kent at Canterbury, England in 1980; and Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University in 1977.
Mr. Llorens has earned numerous awards for distinguished performance, including eight Superior Honor and six Meritorious Honor Awards. He is a past recipient of the Cobb Award for excellence in the promotion of U.S. business, was runner-up for the Saltzman Award for distinguished performance in advancing U.S. international economic interests, and was nominated for the James Baker Award for superior performance by a Deputy Chief of Mission. He speaks Spanish, Tagalog, and some French.
He is married to Lisett Aparicio Llorens, and they have two sons, Andrew and Dirk.
Ambassador Alexander “Sandy” Vershbow is a Distinguished Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security in Washington DC. Ambassador Vershbow was the Deputy Secretary General of NATO from February 2012 to October 2016, the first American to hold that position. He frequently chaired meetings of the North Atlantic Council and other NATO committees. He was directly involved in shaping the Alliance’s political response to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, in adapting NATO’s strengthened deterrence and defense posture, and in deepening NATO’s partnerships with non-Allies in Europe, the Middle East and Northeast Asia.
Prior to his post at NATO, Ambassador Vershbow served for three years as the US Assistant Secretary of Defense for international security affairs. In that position, he was responsible for coordinating US security and defense policies relating to the nations and international organizations of Europe (including NATO), the Middle East, and Africa.
From 1977 to 2008, Vershbow was a career member of the United States Foreign Service. He served as US Ambassador to NATO (1998-2001); to the Russian Federation (2001-05); and to the Republic of Korea (2005-08). He held numerous senior positions in Washington, including Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European affairs at the National Security Council (1994-97) and State Department Director for Soviet Union affairs (1988-91). During his career, he was centrally involved in strengthening US defense relations with allies in Europe and Asia and in transforming NATO and other European security organizations to meet post-Cold War challenges. He also was involved in efforts to support democracy and human rights in the former Soviet Union.
Alexander Vershbow is a long-time student of Russian Affairs and international relations. He received a B.A. in Russian and East European Studies from Yale University (1974) and a Master’s Degree in International Relations and Certificate of the Russian Institute from Columbia University (1976).
During his U.S. government career, Ambassador Vershbow received numerous awards including the Department of Defense’s Distinguished Civilian Service Medal (2012) the State Department’s Cordell Hull Award for Economic Achievement for his contributions to negotiations on the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement (2007); the American Bar Association’s Ambassador’s Award for his advocacy of the democracy, human rights and rule of law in Russia (2004); the State Department’s Distinguished Service Award for his work as Ambassador to NATO (2001); the Department of Defense’s Joseph J. Kruzel Award for his contributions to peace in the former Yugoslavia (1997); and the Anatoly Sharansky Freedom Award of the Union of Councils of Soviet Jews for his work in advancing the cause of Jewish emigration from the USSR (1990).
At NATO, was awarded the NATO Distinguished Service Medal, and he has received state honors from the Presidents of Italy, Poland. Ukraine, Romania, Lithuania and Estonia and from the King of Belgium.
Formerly a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Ronald E. Neumann served three times as Ambassador; to Algeria, Bahrain and finally to Afghanistan from July 2005 to April 2007. Before Afghanistan, Mr. Neumann, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, served in Baghdad from February 2004 with the Coalition Provisional Authority and then as Embassy Baghdad’s liaison with the Multinational Command, where he was deeply involved in coordinating the political part of military actions.
Prior to working in Iraq, he was Ambassador in Manama, Bahrain (2001-2004), Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Near East Affairs (1997-2000) with responsibility for North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, and Ambassador to Algeria (1994 to 1997). He was Director of the Office of Northern Gulf Affairs (Iran and Iraq; 1991 to 1994). Earlier in his career, he was Deputy Chief of Mission in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, and in Sanaa in Yemen, Principal Officer in Tabriz, Iran and Economic/Commercial Officer in Dakar, Senegal. His previous Washington assignments include service as Jordan Desk officer, Staff Assistant in the Middle East (NEA) Bureau, and Political Officer in the Office of Southern European Affairs.
Ambassador Neumann is the author of a memoir, Three Embassies, Four Wars: a personal memoir (2017) and The Other War: Winning and Losing in Afghanistan (Potomac Press, 2009), a book on his time in Afghanistan. He has returned to Afghanistan repeatedly and is the author of a number of monographs, articles, and editorials. His writings have focused most heavily on Afghanistan, stabilization, and Bahrain. At the Academy he has focused particularly on efforts to maintain adequate State and USAID budgets and staffing and upgrade professional formation to enable these institutions to carry out their responsibilities. Ambassador Neumann is on the Advisory Board of a non-profit girls’ school in Afghanistan, the School of Leadership, Afghanistan (SOLA) and the Advisory Board of Spirit of America. He is on the board of the Middle East Policy Council and the Advisory Council of the World Affairs Councils of America.
Ambassador Neumann speaks some Arabic and Dari as well as French. He received State Department Superior Honor Awards in 1993 and 1990. He was an Army infantry officer in Viet Nam and holds a Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge. In Baghdad, he was awarded the Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal. He earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in political science from the University of California at Riverside and is a graduate of the National War College. He is married to the former M. Elaine Grimm. They have two children.