The U.S. Is Preparing To Leave Afghanistan. These MBAs Are Committed To The Country’s Long-Term Stability

Team Afghan Power is working to provide solar renewable energy, internet, laptops, and educational programs to rural schools in Bamyan province, Afghanistan.


Emmert focused on fundraising, and Schubert and his teammates spearheaded the business plan. Together, they raised $65,000 and took a team of seven to Afghanistan to do all the research required before the build, including site surveys and needs assessments. The grid itself cost $23,000, and they expect to build one at another girls’ school for $18,000. Plus, they’re planning on powering a women’s birthing clinic in Bamyan, which currently has no lights or hot water; it’s just a mud building. “We now have a workforce trained, tool sets, and a supply chain for future projects,” says Gerlaugh.

Schubert says that the more people like Gerlaugh who learn these hard, expensive lessons of how to do business in Afghanistan, the easier it’ll be for people to follow suit. “He’s breaking new ground right now and it’s coming at a cost to the initial investors or donors. But I think everyone understands that this is the price of doing business for the ultimate goal of creating pathways for future organizations to continue doing work like this. It’s a sunk cost, but a necessary one in an emerging market,” Schubert explains.


Alexander Emmert

The TAP team searched the country high and low for the right location.

Schubert says that there are many places in Afghanistan where it’s possible to have an impact. When they were researching areas, they looked for locations where they could have the highest return on investment. Originally, their sites were set on Panjshir; Gerlaugh and Emmert were planning on visiting Afghanistan in the summer of 2020 to lead the project in this area. However, two factors affected their plans: The governor of Panjshir fell ill with COVID-19 and nearly died, and there were combat operations just north of the Panjshir Valley. Despite already spending two years studying the area and getting endorsement from the government to move forward, they had to move their efforts to the centrally located province of Bamyan for a more stable, safe environment.

“A lot of the underlying conditions that made Panjshir suitable for a project like this also exist in Bamyan,” says Schubert. “The people are impoverished and survive off agriculture. There is a severe water shortage throughout most of Bamyan, and almost nonexistent electrical and water distribution infrastructure in the province. It’s relatively safe, so it’s an ideal environment to develop renewable power in.”

The pandemic made the build complicated, however. With the danger of travelling, and the cost of quarantine isolation required for travel, they decided to outsource the project to the Afghan workforce who had supported them in Panjshir. “They did the build in Bamyan with us coaching them virtually from the U.S.,” explains Gerlaugh. “Our Afghan teammates did a great job!”


Gerlaugh — a former Marine Corps officer — was a Department of Defense civilian working at the Pentagon when the Afghan war started. He became interested in international development in conflict zones and from 2011 to 2013, and taught national security strategy at the National Defense University.

“At that time, I was trying to understand where we’ve gone right and wrong in the ‘gray wars’ America has fought in. In each instance it seemed the creation of economic opportunity was a key enabler of success,” he says.

Now on a mission to develop and field renewable energy powered micro-grids in rural Afghan villages, Gerlaugh’s unique experience has shaped the vision upon which TAP was built.

“Where there is lack of education, awful things can happen. This creates ungoverned space,” he says. “I think bringing light and modern education to these far, remote places like Afghanistan, especially to girls and women, can make a huge difference.”


Ryan Schubert

Ryan Schubert, a graduate of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, graduated with his MBA in 2018 and is an active-duty Army officer.

When he began his MBA, he did not have a specific outcome in mind. However, he knew he wanted to make a difference. “A lot of the personalities that serve their country in uniform continue to want to serve people in the business sector. That’s why a lot of us are driven to impact consulting or a business model that has helping people as their focus,” he says.

Schubert got involved with TAP after meeting Gerlaugh through Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business. There, he was involved in an active veteran’s club and met a Georgetown alum and Navy veteran, Nick Kessler, who’d founded an initiative called VetImpact at Deloitte. VetImpact connected former military veterans and MBAs in the area with veteran-owned small businesses to assist with business plan development and pro bono consulting. Through this initiative, Schubert worked on a team of both civilians and former military to help Gerlaugh do TAP’s initial business environment analysis, business plan, and determine the feasibility of the project.

“The other veterans and I have a lot invested in Afghanistan. We love the country, and we want to see the people there do well. We’ve seen the government approach to things there and believe that a more private, economic focused development is a longer-term answer for some of the communities that we worked with. That’s what Gerlaugh is passionate about, and that’s why the project attracted us,” says Schubert.

After completing his, Schubert returned to the Army. Ever since graduating, he’s continued to support TAP with his MBA experience.

“I wanted to stay tied to the community and to know what was going on in Afghanistan because I had spent so much time there. I also wanted the personal satisfaction of working with high performers that wanted to make a difference with people,” he says. “I think the MBA program equipped us with the how-to of going from an idea to a tangible outcome in a difficult place like Afghanistan.”

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