Don Ritter


Why Afghanistan? Don Ritter believes (along with Messrs. Gorbachev, Shevardnadze, Gromov et al) that without the Afghan War and the sacrifice of some 1.5 million Afghan people killed, the Soviet Union and most likely global Communism itself, would not have fallen. For this contribution to humankind, he believes that the Afghan people deserve our undying support to assist them in making their nation whole, stable and free to define their own course into the future.

• President & CEO EMERITUS

I. Don Ritter and Afghanistan
• Founding Director – Afghan American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), 2001 - present; Senior Advisor AACC, 2004-2005; Currently – member of AACC Executive Committee of Board of Directors

• An Architect of the Afghan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC), 2003; Senior Advisor, AICC, 2004 - present

• Business developer and businessman, Kabul, Panjshir, Herat, Afghanistan, 2003 - present

• Founding Chairman – Afghanistan Foundation, 1996 - 2003

• In Congress, Representing PA-15 (1979-1993): Chairman of Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan, 1985 -1989

U.S. Congress, 1979 - 1993: Don Ritter’s experience with Afghanistan goes back almost 28 years to the Soviet Union’s invasion of that country in 1979. Don spent the next 10 years in Congress helping the Afghan people evict the Soviet invaders. Dr. Ritter had been a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) post-Doctoral “Exchange Fellow” in the USSR in 1966-67, spoke fluent Russian and had extensive background in Russian culture and history. He authored seminal “Material Assistance” legislation in the Congress (Ritter-Tsongas), created the Congressional Task Force on Afghanistan ((Ritter-Humphrey) to promote such “material assistance” of all kinds to the Afghan resistance and used his ranking position on the Congressional Helsinki Commission to call attention to the destruction of the very fabric of Afghan life and society by the Soviets.

Indeed, beyond Afghanistan, Don’s congressional career was highlighted by consistent effort to ‘diminish’ the power and influence of the former-USSR.

The Afghanistan Foundation: Informing U.S. Afghanistan Policy-making (1996 - 2003): Congressman Ritter in the mid-1990’s along with a distinguished group of Afghan Americans created the Afghanistan Foundation (AF) which was virtually alone in expressing alarm at the highest levels of the U.S. government about the radical downhill slide into failed statehood that was Afghanistan at the time. U.S. Afghanistan policy hearings were held: Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai was first publicly introduced to the U.S. policy leadership community at an AF event in the U.S. Capitol; then Rand Corporation strategist and former U. S. Ambassador and to Afghanistan and then Iraq, now, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Dr. Zalmay Khalilzad, was an AF Board member and led a distinguished team in a research and writing project (also incl. Dr’s. Gouttierre, Krakowski, Byman and Eighmy) plus Dr. Ritter that produced the 1999 White Paper, U.S. Policy in Afghanistan: Challenges and Solutions, which proposed a series of graduated U.S. policy initiatives to act against the growing Taliban threat.

That Paper’s recommendations were at the heart of U.S. Afghanistan policy development immediately prior to 9-11.

Building a New Afghanistan by Promoting the Private Sector and a Market Economy, 9-11 - present: More recently, Dr. Ritter was a Founding Board member of the AACC and today serves on the executive committee of their Board of Directors. He led an AACC team in the development of the proposal for the USAID-funded Afghan International Chamber of Commerce, AICC where AACC is the U.S. “affiliate”. He currently serves as the Senior Advisor to AICC in the development of strategies, plans, programs and tactics and in the execution of AICC initiatives. He has spent substantial time in Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. Don has written numerous op-eds with Afghan colleagues on the subject of the Afghan private sector.

Don is the U.S. investor and Chairman of the U.S. – Afghan company that built and operates the most modern laundry and dry cleaning plant in the region to serve the population of Kabul and execute military and government contracts. He is also currently engaged in building a mountain lodge tourism industry in the Panjshir Valley, a mini-mill for steel products for the Afghan construction boom in Herat, a business development services company in Kabul and an Afghan-American prime contractor to compete for large construction contracts.

Don has published numerous op-eds on the private sector and market economy development in Afghanistan.

Outlook for Afghanistan: Don and colleagues believe that a robust and independent, job-creating private sector is the key to the future of Afghanistan; that the economy of the country and security are intimately linked. He has personally led an AACC/AICC investment strategy for Americans to invest in Afghanistan by finding competent, communications capable and trustworthy Afghan partners to invest in new businesses in Afghanistan.

Finally, he believes there is great opportunity in Afghanistan if the right economic policies of the Afghan government and donor nations are in place.

Other Professional Experience:

II. National Environmental Policy Institute, NEPI, 1993 - 2002: For ten years after leaving Congress, he served as Chairman and President of the National Environmental Policy Institute (NEPI). NEPI was the cutting edge of environmental policy changes in the 1990s that sought greater involvement of States and localities in national policy making. NEPI pioneered the use of risk assessment and peer-reviewed science in the regulatory decision process. Don’s aim was to replace some of the Washington-based politicized environmental decision making with more fact, common sense and science by engaging an expanded, less partisan contingent of citizens and decision-makers from the States, cities and localities.

III. U.S. Congress: non - Afghanistan Activity, 1979 - 1993: After defeating a 16 year incumbent, Don represented the Lehigh Valley (Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton area) of PA. As a long-term and senior member of the Energy and Commerce and Science and Technology Committees, Don sought to bring a greater degree of science to the legislative process and was often referred to by peers as a “scientist-Congressman”. His district had a substantial industrial and University constituency with the former relating to regulation and the latter to research. He was also a champion of human rights and an arch foe of the Soviet expansionist activity, not only regarding Afghanistan but also Cuba-Central America, Eastern Europe, the Baltic States and Ukraine. In addition to his service on the Cong. Helsinki Commission, he was the Founding Chairman of the Ad Hoc Committee on the Baltic States and Ukraine. Substantial numbers of Hungarian, Polish, Slovakia and Ukrainian-Americans resided in his district.

IV. Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA: Teaching, Research and Administration, 1969 -1979: He served on the Lehigh University faculty and in research administration as well as a consultant to manufacturing industry for ten years prior to going to Congress.

V. National Academy of Sciences – Soviet Academy of Sciences Exchange Fellow, 1966 - 1967: Did Post-Doctoral research at the Baikov Institute for Metallurgy in Moscow, USSR

Education: Don holds a B.S. in Metallurgical Engineering from Lehigh University and a M.S. and Sc. D. (Doctorate) from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, M.I.T, in Physical Metallurgy and Materials Science.

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