Jennifer Cafarella

Director of Strategic Initiatives and National Security Fellow



Jennifer Cafarella is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW). Ms. Cafarella works closely with ISW’s President, Board of Directors, and other senior leaders to envision, scope, and develop new programs supporting long-term growth of the Institute. Ms. Cafarella is also an ISW National Security Fellow and leads the Institute’s Geopolitical Risk Analysis practice, which builds upon the foundational work of ISW’s open-source analysis on ongoing and potential conflicts in Ukraine, Russia, China, and the  Middle East. She regularly advises senior military leaders as well as policymakers on the threats the US and its allies face. She also briefs financial services companies and investors regarding global risk and geopolitical forecasts.

Ms. Cafarella’s work has been recognized by numerous other institutions including through fellowships at the George Mason University’s National Security Institute as well as the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College in London. Ms Cafarella was recently selected for the Middle East Policy Council’s “40 under 40” award in 2023. Ms. Cafarella is an internationally recognized expert on the conflict in Syria and al Qaeda and has testified at Congressional hearings on these challenges.

Ms. Cafarella regularly appears in broadcast media and has made live appearances on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and other major networks. She frequently speaks at major international conferences in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. Ms. Cafarella has authored numerous papers including “Russia’s Dead-End Diplomacy in Syria” and “Confronting the Russian Challenge: A New Approach for the U.S.” Her written work has been featured across major media outlets including Foreign Affairs Magazine, the Washington Post, the New York Times, and others.

Ms. Cafarella previously served as ISW’s Chief of Staff from 2021-2022 after 6 years in ISW’s Research Department including as Research Director. As the Chief of Staff, Ms. Cafarella led ISW through a period of transformational change that included asymmetric growth and the launch of multiple new programs. She is a graduate of ISW's Hertog War Studies Program and was the Institute's first Evans Hanson Fellow, which sponsors outstanding alumni of the War Studies Program and seeks to help build the next generation of national security leaders.

Ms. Cafarella is available on LinkedIn and you can follow her on Twitter: @JennyCafarella