distinguished alumni

Distinguished Alumni

The NESA Center produces hundreds to thousands of exceptional alumni every year who go on to change the world through their words and deeds. Each year, NESA senior leadership honors someone from the NESA alumni community who advances the mission of the Center through dedicated efforts in academia, public service, or civil society organizations that enhance regional security.

Since 2010, this award has been bestowed upon individuals from the nearly 10,000 changemakers from over 120 countries who have graduated from NESA programs. View the NESA Center Distinguished Alumni below.


General S.M. Shafiuddin Ahmed

General S.M. Shafiuddin Ahmed – Chief of Army Staff
Bangladesh Army

Attended: NESA Bangladesh National Defence College Visit – August 2017  |  SSN Directors and Working Groups Seminar – February 2014  |  NESA Executive Seminar – April 2009

General S. M. Shafiuddin Ahmed was inducted as a Distinguished NESA Center Alumnus on 21 April 2022, at the NESA Center Hall of Fame located in Lincoln Hall. General S.M. Shafiuddin Ahmed, SBP, OSP, NDU, PSC, Ph.D. has taken over the Command of the Bangladesh Army as the 17th Chief of Army Staff on 24 June 2021. The General was born on 01 December 1963 in a reputed Muslim and Freedom Fighter Family in Khulna. He was commissioned with 9th BMA Long Course in the Corps of Infantry on 23 December 1983 in the Bangladesh Army. He has been maintaining a phenomenal military career having a blend of Command, Staff, and Instructional experiences at different levels with the Bangladesh Armed Forces and Overseas Peacekeeping Mission.

His diversified command credential at the Army level includes commanding Army Training and Doctrine Command (ARTDOC); at Division and Brigade level, he commanded the only Logistics Formation of the Bangladesh Army, an Infantry Division, and an Infantry Brigade. Besides, he also commanded an Infantry Battalion and the 1st Bangladesh Battalion (only one of its kind) at the Bangladesh Military Academy. He also has an iconic experience of commanding multinational forces in a start-up peacekeeping mission as the pioneer Deputy Force Commander in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA).  READ MORE

After completion of Commanding Army Training and Doctrine Command, General Shafiuddin assumed the prestigious appointment of Quarter Master General at Army Headquarters. In his long, illustrious career, he also has served as the Director-General of Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) and Senior Directing Staff (Army) of National Defence College (NDC), Bangladesh. General Shafiuddin has served as Brigade Major of an Infantry Brigade and Grade-1 Staff Officer at the Formation Headquarters. He was also the Adjutant of Barishal Cadet College. The General has also served as the Chief of Doctrine Division in ARTDOC and Director of Military Training Directorate at the Army Headquarters.

General Shafiuddin attended several military courses both at home and abroad. He is a graduate of Defence Services Command and Staff College (DSCSC), Mirpur, Bangladesh. He attended an International Symposium Course in National Defence University (NDU), China, and Defence and Strategic Studies Course at the same University. He is also a NESA graduate from NDU, Washington DC. Besides, General Shafiuddin led military delegations to a number of countries and led bilateral talks with the senior military leadership on regional security and defence cooperation.

General Shafiuddin attained three Master’s Degrees in varied disciplines. He was awarded an MPhil degree with First Class in Development and Security Studies from the Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP). He obtained a Masters in Defence Studies (MDS) from National University, Bangladesh. He has also obtained Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Dhaka University, where he secured 1st position and received the MIST Gold Medal. He obtained a Doctor of Philosophy from Bangladesh University of Professionals (BUP) through his research on Development and Security Studies.

General Shafiuddin is a widely traveled person who has visited many countries around the globe. The sports-loving General is a keen golfer. Happily married, the General is a proud father of two daughters.


Major General Mohammed Al-Ruwaili – President
Saudi Arabia National Defense University

Major General Mohammed Al-Ruwaili was presented a NESA Center Distinguished Alumni Award on 2021 July. The award recognized MG Al-Ruwaili’s long and ardent support for the NESA-led transformation program at the Saudi Armed Forces Command and Staff College, which began during his tenure as military deputy in the Ministry of Defense’s Transformation Management Office and continued when he assumed his current duties.

MG Al-Ruwaili has a Master of Arts in Military Studies from the College of Command and Staff in Saudi Arabia and Master of Arts, Administrative and Military Studies from Mutah University in Jordan. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Military Sciences from King Abdulaziz Military College in Saudi Arabia, a Diploma in Education from the University of Tabuk in Saudi Arabia and a Diploma in English from the Defense Language Institute in the United States. READ MORE

He currently serves as the President of the Saudi Arabia National Defense University, a position he has held since 2019 August. Prior to that he was the Strategic Military Advisor for the Ministry of Defense (Transformation Management) Development Program. His prior military assignments were as Assistant College Commander at King Abdulaziz Military College, Dean of the Department of Education at the Armored Corps Institute, Teaching Officer at the Command and Staff College, Research and Development Officer at the Armored Corps Institute, and Teaching Officer at the Armored Corps Institute.


Major General Staff Pilot Rashad Al Sa’adi

Major General Staff Pilot Rashad Al Sa’adi – Commandant
UAE National Defense College

Attended: NESA Senior Executive Seminar, 2002 & 2009

Major General Staff Pilot Rashad Al Sa’adi has held his current assignment as the Commandant of National Defense College since 2, August 2012. He joined the UAE Armed Forces in 1978 and obtained his basic aviation certificate from the French Army Aviation School in 1979. He started his professional career as an operational pilot in the Anti-tank Helicopter Squadron (Gazelle). After he obtained his Qualified Flight Instructor Certificate from the Royal Air Force (UK), he joined the Anti-surface Vessel and General Utility Squadrons.He participated in many local and overseas courses such as France, Egypt, United Kingdom and the United States of America. Among these courses was the Air Warfare Course held at the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. He also took part in many programs, seminars, and workshops with senior military and government officials at Harvard University and the US National Defense University.    Read More

He was promoted through the rank structure and held many posts in Air Force and Air Defense Forces as an operation officer and squadron commander. General Al Sa’adi also served in the Training and Operations Department of the Air Force and Air Defense Headquarters. He was appointed as the Commandant of Air Force and Air Defense Institute and later as the Commander of Al Dhafra Airbase before he held his assignment as the Commandant of the Joint Command and Staff College.


Professor Ben Younes

Professor Kamal Ben Younes – Director, International Studies and Communication Institute (INCOME) and General Director, Radio Zitouna (Tunisia)

Attended: Various NESA Seminars

Professor Kamal Ben Younes, The NESA Center’s 2018 Distinguished Alumnus, is a Tunisian political analyst and civil society leader. He is the Director of the International Studies and Communication Institute (INCOME) think tank, and was selected by the Tunisian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to serve as the General Director of Tunisian Radio Zitouna, Tunisia’s government-sponsored radio station that works to counter radical Islamist narratives. He partners with the BBC, Asharq al-Awsat, and other major worldwide and regional news sources and periodicals as a North Africa expert and media analyst.    Read More

Since 2003—for over fifteen years—Professor Ben Younes has established himself as among the NESA Center’s most active alumni, participating in an average of 4 NESA-sponsored programs per year since 2003. He has assisted an extensive list of both NESA-AFRICOM programs as well as NESA Levant and Gulf programs, including providing major support in securing Tunisian government support of a NESA-Yemen workshop, at a time when no country would permit the hosting of Yemeni delegates. Ninety-five percent of NESA alumni that have been recommended to NESA courses by Professor Ben Younes—including daughter, Sahar, and son, Firas—have remained actively engaged in the global NESA alumni network.


trent kellyHE US Congressman Trent Kelly
House of Representatives, U.S. Congress

Attended: NESA Combating Transnational Threats Senior Executive Seminar, Jan. 2013

Honorable Congressman Trent Kelly was born on March 1, 1966, in Union, Mississippi. He graduated from Union High School and East Central Community College. He earned his bachelor’s degree and juris doctor from the University of Mississippi. In 2010, he received his master’s degree in Strategic Studies from the United States Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

Congressman Kelly spent 30 years in the Mississippi Army National Guard as an Engineer and currently serves as a Colonel. In 1990, he mobilized for Desert Storm as an Engineer Second Lieutenant. In 2005, he deployed as a Major to Iraq with the 155th Brigade as the Operations Officer of the 150th Engineer Battalion. From 2009 to 2010, he was deployed as a Lieutenant Colonel to Iraq as the Battalion Commander of Task Force Knight of the 155th Brigade Combat Team and commanded over 670 troops from Mississippi, Ohio, and Kentucky. He has received two Bronze Stars, the Combat Action Badge, the DeFleury Medal, and numerous other federal and state awards for his service.   Read More

Congressman Kelly won a special election runoff in June 2015 to represent the First District of Mississippi in the 114th Congress. He currently serves on the House Committee on Agriculture and the Small Business Committee. In addition, he also serves on the Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee, Contracting and Workforce Subcommittee, Commodity, Exchanges, Energy, and Credit Subcommittee, and the Economic Growth, Tax, and Capital Access Subcommittee.

Prior to his tenure in Congress, Mr. Kelly maintained a private law practice in Saltillo and worked as a Manager for McRae’s Department Store. Congressman Kelly has previously held public office as the District Attorney for the 1st Circuit Judicial District (Lee, Pontotoc, Alcorn, Monroe, Itawamba, Prentiss, and Tishomingo) managing all felony cases and as the Tupelo City Prosecutor and Forfeiture Attorney for North Mississippi Narcotics Unit.


Aisha Bint Al Hussein

HRM MG Princess Aisha Al-Hussein – Defense Attaché
Embassy of Jordan in Washington, DC

Attended: NESA Inaugural Seminar, Oct. 2000 | Jordanian Alumni Event, Apr. 2011 | Various Washington Seminars

Aisha Bint Al Hussein was born April 23, 1968 in Amman, Jordan. She was educated in Amman until the age of eight. She spent the next ten years in the United States, beginning in Washington DC and ending with her graduating from Dana Hall High School in Wellesley, Massachusetts, in 1986. While on summer holiday in Amman, before starting her senior year at Dana Hall, Aisha became the first female in the Middle East to complete five military parachute jumps and receive her wings. She then enrolled in the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst in the United Kingdom, where she completed her officer’s training course in April 1987. She was the first female from the Middle East to attend Sandhurst. Aisha completed her second education by receiving her undergraduate degree in Modern Middle East History and Politics from Pembroke College of Oxford University. In 1990, Aisha married Zeid Saadedine Juma in Amman. They have a boy, Aoun, born on May 27, 1992, and a girl, Muna, born on July 18, 1996.    Read More

After graduation from the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Major General Aisha spent three months on a special course set by the British Army in which she visited all of the female military establishments in Great Britain. The course gave her valuable insight about how to go about advancing the interests of military women in Jordan.

While on breaks from Oxford University, Major General Aisha worked with the Special Forces and graduated several parachute courses. From 1993 until 1994, she was Founder and Researcher of the Office of HRH Princess Aisha and in 1995 she became Director of the Directorate of Women’s Affairs in the Jordanian Armed Forces. Also in 1995, Major General Aisha completed a security and protection training course with the Royal Guard.

In 1988, she received her first medal for hanging under a helicopter with members of the Special Forces during a fly-by at a military parade for His Majesty King Hussein. Her other awards include: The Order of Merit – Level 4, The Decoration of Independence – Level 1, The Medal of Administrative Competence, and the King Hussein Medal for Excellence, for taking first place in M-16 marksmanship on the Royal Guard Protection Course.

Major General Aisha has always been interested in women’s rights and has enjoyed breaking new ground on behalf of women in Jordan. She is always interested in supporting women in finding new roles within Jordan and believes that with the right qualifications, women in Jordan are capable of holding positions on all levels, whether in government, the private sector, or in institutions such as the armed forces. Major General Aisha serves as patron for official functions supporting various charities, schools, and universities with Jordan. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and sports.


Abdul Lateef Bin Rashid Al Zayani

HE Abdullatif Bin Rashid Al Zayani – Secretary General
Gulf Cooperation Council

Attended: NESA Senior Executive Seminar – July 2001

His Excellency Abdul Lateef Bin Rashid Al Zayani, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) beginning April 1, 2011, is a retired general in the Bahrain Defense Force. Before his appointment as secretary general of the GCC, His Excellency served as adviser within The General Court of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with the rank of minister.

A graduate of the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, UK, General Al Zayani has advanced degrees from the U.S. Air Force Institute of Technology and a doctorate in operations research from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School.    Read More

As a member of the Bahrain Defense Force, General Al Zayani served in the 1st Royal Mechanized Battalion, the Royal Air Defense, and the Royal Bahraini Air Force. He has held positions as Director of Planning and Organizations, Director of Joint Operations, Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations in charge of joint operations, plans, training, force development, and command and control. In the Ministry of the Interior, General Al Zayani served as Chief of Public Security, responsible for commanding and for modernizing the Police Force, Special Forces, the Coast Guard and the Civil Defense and Fire Service.

At the Ministry Foreign Affairs, His Excellency served as Chairman of the Joint Steering Committee between the Kingdom of Bahrain and the United Kingdom, and as Chairman of the Development and Regulation Committee of Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In addition to his service to the state, His Excellency has taught mathematics and statistics at the University of Maryland, quantitative methods and statistics at the University of Bahrain, and quantitative methods and total quality management at the Arabian Gulf University.


General Sher Mohammad Karimi

GEN Sher Mohammad Karimi – Chief of General Staff
Afghan National Army

Attended: NESA Executive Seminar, Oct. 2002  |  NESA Alumni Symposium, Nov. 2005

General Sher Mohammad Karimi was born 1 November, 1945 in Khost Province, Afghanistan. He became the first Afghan to graduate from the prestigious Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, United Kingdom, in the late 1960’s. He would later attend and graduate from the National Defense College of India. General Karimi later become a graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and completes the US Army Special Forces, Airborne, and Ranger training programs in the early 1970s.

After the 1978 communist coup in Afghanistan, General Karimi was incarcerated due to his Western education. Unlike many of his communist colleagues and the majority of the Afghan officer corps, he had never received training in the Soviet Union. General Karimi was eventually forced into exile in neighboring Pakistan, where he lived until the demise of the Taliban regime in 2001.    Read More

General Karimi returned to Afghanistan to help build the Afghan National Army (ANA) in 2003. He was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and appointed as the Chief of Operations (GS G3) for the ANA, serving in the position until 28 June 2010. General Karimi was promoted to the rank of General and appointed as the ANA Chief of General Staff.

He is married and has three sons and one daughter. The older son and daughter live in Germany. The middle son is a doctor currently serving in the ANA and the youngest is a Captain serving in the ANA on the General’s staff.


Ambassador Faysal Gouia Ambassador Faysal Gouis – Embassy of Tunisia, Washington D.C.

Attended: NESA Washington Seminar Luncheon, Oct. 2015 | NESA Executive Seminar, 2002

Ambassador Faysal Gouia is a resourceful, self-motivated Diplomat, with a long history in diplomacy and a tremendously successful record of achievements in international relations. He is noted for his keen strengths and contributions in policy analysis, public relations, analytical research, report writing, and effective communications in a challenging world. Ambassador Gouia is a leader dedicated to building confidence and trust in complex environments.

Ambassador Gouia possesses a Master of Arts degree in Public Administration from the National Administration Institute of Tunis. Ambassador Gouia also holds a second Master of Arts in Finance Management from the Finance School of Paris. He was the auditor of the “National Defence Institute” of Tunis in 2003.    Read More

His Excellency was previously the Cultural and Press Counsellor, Economic and Commercial Counsellor, and Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of Tunisia in Washington. He has served as Ambassador of Tunisia to the following:

Republic of Indonesia, the Republic of the Philippines, the Republic of Singapore, the Kingdom of Thailand, the Kingdom of Malaysia, and the Sultanate of Brunei Darussalam. He is currently the Director General for the Americas and Asia at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Republic of Tunisia.

Ambassador Gouia is married with two children and we warmly welcome him and Mrs. Gouia to Washington, D.C.


Ambassador Amin Meleika

Ambassador Amin Meleika – Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Egypt

Attended: NESA Senior Executive Seminar, 2011 | NESA Strategic Forum, 2014

After graduating from the American University in Cairo in 1984, with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, Ambassador Meleika joined the Egyptian Foreign Service in July 1985. He enrolled at the Institute for Diplomatic Studies for a training period, which included a short trip to the United Kingdom and a longer three-month trip to the Center for African studies at the University of Bordeaux, France.

Meleika has served on four international missions during the past 24 years. His first one was at the Embassy of Egypt in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (1987 – 1991). He was then summoned to the embassy at Hague, the Netherlands (1992 – 1996). His third assignment was at the consulate general of Egypt in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (1997 – 2001). His last international post was in Geneva as deputy chief of mission of Egypt to the United Nations.    Read More

On the national level, Meleika has served in different departments, namely Africa, economic affairs, minister’s cabinet (assistant to the ministry’s spokesman), East European affairs and as deputy director of the Institute for Diplomatic Studies. Before going to his last assignment, he assumed the position of counselor at the cabinet of the minister of foreign affairs. He has also held the title of the Deputy Assistant Foreign Minister for North American affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Noha Bakr PhD – Political Science Professor

Attended: Various NESA Seminars

Dr. Bakr works in the interdisciplinary field of International Relations and International Organizations. She received a Distinguished Alumni award from American University in Cairo and National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

In her academic career, she works as a Political Science professor teaching international gender issues and human rights and organizations. She is the former Assistant to the Minister of International Cooperation, in charge of international economic cooperation with Canada and the Americas. Her publications are focused in the field of security and international organizations. Dr. Bakr has headed different panels, and has participated as a speaker and participant in conferences, workshops, and programs, on the national, regional, and international level. She has lectured in various academic platforms such as at the NATO Defense College, the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in Sanremo, Moscow University, Perm University, Diplomatic Institute at Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and at Cairo University. Read More

Dr. Bakr has worked as a consultant to different organizations including the UNDP on a project on Democracy in the “Last 50 years in Africa,” the African Union on Youth Development Program, Silencing the Guns, and Human Security Response to COVID-19 in North Africa. She has also been a member of the Steering Committee of Tana Security Forum.

Currently, she’s a member of the Advisory Board of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, board member of the KEMET Botros Ghali Foundation, board member of the Arab Net Work for Tolerance, member of the Egyptian Council of Foreign Relations and a member of the Egyptian International Economic Forum. She’s served as a guest in different media programs–providing analysis to current events, and hard and soft security challenges. Recently, she was elected by the Egyptian Parliament to be one of 27 members of the National Council of Human Rights.