Emma Sky

  • Spring 2011

Emma Sky left Iraq in September 2010, where she had served for three years as Political Advisor to General Odierno, the US General commanding all US forces in Iraq, had worked directly for General Petraeus on reconciliation and had been the Governorate Coordinator of Kirkuk for the Coalition Provisional Authority back in 2003/2004. In the intervening years, Sky had served in Jerusalem as Political Advisor to General Ward, the US Security Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process; and as Advisor to the Italian and British Commanding Generals of the NATO forces in Afghanistan in 2006.

As a British, female, civilian, with a background in international development and strong anti-war credentials, it seemed unlikely that Sky would become advisor and confidante to some of America’s finest military leaders. And certainly it has been quite a journey for someone who did not support either the Iraq war or the Afghanistan war.

As an undergraduate at Oxford, Sky was greatly influenced by two global events: the first Intifada and the Gulf War. Sky worked hard to find ways to contribute to bringing about peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Sky actively protested against the 1991 Gulf War.

After graduation, Sky traveled alone in Africa and the Middle East, worked on refugee issues, and did post-graduate studies, before moving out to live and work in Jerusalem. Sky worked in Palestinian organizations before moving to the British Council to manage projects to help build up the institutions of the Palestinian Authority and to promote better relations between Palestinians and Israelis. Sky was at the peace demonstration in Tel Aviv on 4 November 1995 where Rabin was assassinated.

Sky left Jerusalem in 2001 after the outbreak of the second intifada, returning to UK to work on international governance, justice and security advisor for the British Council. As such, Sky did consultancy work in Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, and United Arab Emirates.

When the Iraq War broke out in 2003, Sky volunteered to go to Iraq for three months to help rebuild the country as part of the Coalition Provisional Authority. Within her first week as the senior civilian in Kirkuk, Sky’s house was blown up by insurgents. Sky therefore moved on to the army base and came to work closely with the US Commander of the 173d Airborne Brigade. It was an experience that was to change her life.