Abigail Friedman

Senior Associate (Non-resident), Simon Chair in Political Economy

Abigail Friedman is founder and CEO of the Wisteria Group, an international advisory firm dedicated to expanding the international presence and effectiveness of nonprofit and business clients. Prior to this, Ms. Friedman was a senior adviser at the Asia Foundation where she led strategic engagement with Japan and advised on conflict-affected regions in Asia.

Ms. Friedman brings to her work over 25 years of experience as a U.S. diplomat. As White House National Security Council director for Afghanistan in the Obama administration she advised the president on Afghanistan policy, led the interagency effort on Afghanistan’s economic and political transition, and negotiated the U.S.-Afghan Strategic Partnership. Prior to that, she was in Afghanistan embedded in a U.S. brigade where she managed an international development team across four provinces. Earlier diplomatic assignments include tours in Tokyo, Paris, the Azores, and Quebec. While head of U.S. embassy Tokyo’s arms control unit, she aligned U.S. and Japanese policy toward North Korea. The following year she served as special assistant in the East Asia and Pacific Bureau at the State Department and was a member of the U.S. delegation to the Six-Party Talks on North Korea. In an earlier Tokyo posting, she was a speechwriter and political adviser to then-Ambassador Walter Mondale. Ms. Friedman’s involvement in civilian implementation of peace agreements extends to the first Gulf War, where she helped establish UN oversight of the destruction of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and later to the Balkans including participation in the 1995 Dayton Peace negotiations for Bosnia and Herzegovina. As U.S. consul general in Quebec, she addressed environmental challenges, in particular the impact of climate change on the Arctic territory of Nunavut.

Ms. Friedman received her B.A. with honors from Harvard University and her J.D. from the Georgetown University Law Center. She was a visiting professor at George Washington University for two years in the Department of Organizational Sciences and Communication. Prior to joining the State Department, she worked at the U.S. Senate Office of the Legal Counsel. She is a trustee of the Japan-America Society of Washington, D.C., and the Awesome Foundation. She continues to support the work of the Asia Foundation as senior adviser. Ms. Friedman is fluent in Japanese, French, and Spanish, and proficient in Portuguese.