Dr. Shirin Tahir-Kheli is a Senior Fellow and Founding Director of the South Asia Program at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). She was Research Professor of International Relations. In 2011, Tahir-Kheli was named by Newsweek as one of the "150 Women Who Shake the World." She specializes in South Asia, nuclear non-proliferation, United Nations and U.S. foreign policy, and women's empowerment.
From 2003 to 2005, she served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights and International Operations at the National Security Council. She proposed and coordinated the building of the Children's Hospital for treatment of Cancer in Basra, Iraq from 2004 to 2009. From 2004 to 2006, she served as the key U.S. official in the formulation of U.S. policy toward United Nations reform. She oversaw the diplomatic effort to press for critical changes in the UN system from her position as Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs at the National Security Council and later as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of State for UN Reform.
Shirin Tahir-Kheli was appointed by Secretary Condoleezza Rice as her Senior Advisor for Women’s Empowerment in 2006. There, she established the first ever office focused on integrating Women's Empowerment into U.S. foreign policy. She set up and oversaw the work of the Women Leaders' Working Group, comprising 60 female heads of state, foreign ministers, political leaders, attorney generals and speakers of parliaments, focused on political participation, education, economic empowerment and justice. Tahir-Kheli spearheaded the State Department initiative for "Women's Justice" at the Department of State in 2008, through which judges from around the world worked on measures to alleviate the severity of violence against women and women's lack of access to justice, which continues.
Earlier, during her service in the United States government, Tahir-Kheli served as Head of the United States delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva in 2001;, Alternate United States Representative to the United Nations for Special Political Affairs (1990–1993), a post that carries the rank of Ambassador, Member of the United States Presidential Commission on the Public Service (1992–1993), Director of Near East and South Asian Affairs (1986-1989) and Director of Political Military Affairs (1984–1986) at the National Security Council. She joined the Reagan Administration in 1982 as Member, Policy Planning Staff in the Office of the Secretary of State.
Ambassador Tahir-Kheli has dedicated her efforts to finding areas of agreement between India and Pakistan that could change their relationship to one of productive peace. Toward that end, she has been chair of the BALUSA Group comprising senior Indian, Pakistani, and U.S. participants that is geared to influencing policy toward cooperation.
She is the author and editor of several monographs, including: Pakistan Today: The Case for U.S.-Pakistan Relations (with Shahid Javed Burki, Foreign Policy Institute, 2017); Manipulating Religion for Political Gain in Pakistan: Consequences for the U.S. and the Region (Foreign Policy Institute, 2015); and India, Pakistan and the United States: Breaking with the Past (Council on Foreign Relations, 1997).