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

Courtesy TAP


After serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy for eight years and getting deployed to the Middle East as both a submarine officer and a maritime mission planner for a joint special force’s unit, he went on to work as a consultant in the region. There, he focused on security and economic issues before getting his MBA at Wharton where he was the president of the veteran’s club.

Looking for a way to get involved with economic development through private sector volunteer work, Emmert stumbled upon a Poets&Quants article featuring Georgetown’s Colin Miller who was involved with TAP. Inspired by the mission, Emmert reached out to Gerlaugh following graduation and applied what he’d learned through his classes and his involvement in the Wharton Impact Investing Partners (WIIP) — a student-led impact investing group — to raise funds for the Afghanistan project. Plus, Emmert was able to get two veteran startups on board to provide the TAP team with financial support and equipment: Reveal Technologies and Trident Logistics.

“What I got from Wharton’s MBA program was understanding how to sell a social impact project, whose financial returns might not be what an investor is looking for, but the long-term goal is. Also, the MBA network was incredible — we were able to connect with Harvard Business School, Harvard Law School, and Michigan Ross veterans to help with the project,” he says.


Gerlaugh is proud of TAP’s bottom-up approach in Afghanistan; they collaborated with village citizens to co-create and build the power grid in Bamyan from the ground up, which is central to TAP’s approach. “When you pour development funding into the national government level, very little impact will be made in the rural villages due to corruption,” he says.

Not only did TAP get MBA involvement, but each MBA was also able to leverage their unique network. This resulted in the initiative getting resources and support from people at the State Department, US Agency for International Development, the Pentagon, former military service members in the UK, and Afghan expats in the U.S. and Europe.

Despite the U.S.’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, many military veterans are still committed to developing the country. “We have a lot of Americans and allies who’ve given their lives for the effort in Afghanistan,” explains Gerlaugh. “Most of us that served in Afghanistan knew instinctively that shooting our way to a solution was no solution at all. The sad reality is that there were few other viable options resourced by the participating governments.”


If the TAP team can identify other peaceful environments in Afghanistan, they will continue their efforts outside of Bamyan. Ideally, they’d like to return to the Panjshir Valley to complete their original planned project. In the meantime, TAP will continue to focus on sustainable power for girls’ schools and clinics in Afghanistan.

“This won’t be a one or two-year program. It’ll take decades, and is generational. I think it will be way after I’m gone that any results are seen on a grand scale. But those are the kinds of strategic security investments that we ought to be making as a country,” says Gerlaugh.


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