Top National Security Advisor; Former Special Envoy in the Campaign to Defeat ISIS (2015-2018); Senior Foreign Affairs Analyst with MSNBC

Brett McGurk

About the Speaker

Top National Security Advisor under three consecutive U.S. Presidents, Special Envoy for Campaign to Defeat ISIS (2015-2018); Distinguished Lecturer at Stanford University; MSNBC Senior Foreign Affairs Analyst.

One of the longest-serving and most effective national security experts of his generation, Brett McGurk served as a top advisor on critical diplomatic and military strategies under Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Deeply involved in Middle East strategy and diplomacy, McGurk helped design and then led the successful campaign to defeat ISIS together with a coalition of 75 countries.  

McGurk’s unparalleled vantage point provides audiences an insider’s view of the interplay between nations and an assessment of America’s role on the ever-changing world stage. He outlines some of the toughest diplomatic challenges of our time, providing audiences with a new understanding of how deadlocks can be overcome, decisions can be made under fire, and skilled negotiations can lead to a successful conclusion.  McGurk has led negotiations with hostile states, including Iran and Russia, as well as allies in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.

Serving as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Iraq and Afghanistan under President Bush, McGurk helped develop “The Surge,” a fundamental and successful shift in Iraq war strategy. Under President Obama, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iraq and Iran and spearheaded 14 months of secret talks with Iran that led to a prisoner swap and release of six Americans—prompting the New York Times to cite him as “a doer” in high-stakes negotiations. He also helped build the largest international coalition in history to confront ISIS and led the campaign under both Obama and Trump before resigning his position in December 2018 following Trump’s order to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria. 

President Bush has described McGurk as part of a “band of brothers” inside the White House at a critical phase of the Iraq war.  President Obama has called him one of his “closest advisors” on the Middle East.  Condoleezza Rice has called Brett the “consummate professional diplomat.”

While lauded throughout his distinguished career, awards of note include the Distinguished Honor Award (2009) and the Distinguished Service Award (2016), the highest any Secretary of State can bestow someone in McGurk’s diplomatic capacity.