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Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA,…

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden,… (2004)

by Steve Coll

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1,630244,443 (4.16)31

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Fascinating and depressing read--This is a good one for anyone who thinks that foreign relations aren't that complicated or who misses out on the necessity of knowing a region's history before entangling his or her country in a conflict. ( )
  ProfH | Jan 15, 2017 |
This is an exhaustive review of everything that happened with regard to the CIA in Afghanistan leading up to the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US. When I say exhaustive I do mean exhaustive. There are an awful lot of names and elaborate side-plots to keep track of in a book that covers 1979-2001. As someone who was not alive for the vast majority of this period, I learned a lot about American politics and history by reading this book and feel like I have a much better grasp of the issues. It is particularly relevant to recent international problems surrounding ISIS/L. ( )
  collingsruth | Oct 27, 2014 |
Incredible outline of what the U.S. is up against in the Middle East. ( )
  Richard.J.Schneider | Apr 18, 2013 |
An outstanding book whose contents were infuriating. ( )
  chriskrycho | Mar 30, 2013 |
The book is well-detailed and very clear for the amount of information it covers. However, I felt very cold and distant from the narrative. ( )
  reluctantm | Dec 17, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
Coll has given us what is certainly the finest historical narrative so far on the origins of Al Qaeda in the post-Soviet rubble of Afghanistan. He has followed up that feat by threading together the complex roles played by diplomats and spies from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States into a coherent story explaining how Afghanistan became such a welcoming haven for Al Qaeda.
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Prologue:In the tattered, cargo-strewn cabin of an Ariana Afghan Airlines passenger jet streaking above Punjab toward Kabul sat a stocky, broad-faced American with short graying hair.
It was a small riot in a year of upheavals, a passing thunderclap disgorged by racing skies.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143034669, Paperback)

Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 offers revealing details of the CIA's involvement in the evolution of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the years before the September 11 attacks. From the beginning, Coll shows how the CIA's on-again, off-again engagement with Afghanistan after the end of the Soviet war left officials at Langley with inadequate resources and intelligence to appreciate the emerging power of the Taliban. He also demonstrates how Afghanistan became a deadly playing field for international politics where Soviet, Pakistani, and U.S. agents armed and trained a succession of warring factions. At the same time, the book, though opinionated, is not solely a critique of the agency. Coll balances accounts of CIA failures with the success stories, like the capture of Mir Amal Kasi. Coll, managing editor for the Washington Post, covered Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992. He demonstrates unprecedented access to records of White House meetings and to formerly classified material, and his command of Saudi, Pakistani, and Afghani politics is impressive. He also provides a seeming insider's perspective on personalities like George Tenet, William Casey, and anti-terrorism czar, Richard Clarke ("who seemed to wield enormous power precisely because hardly anyone knew who he was or what exactly he did for a living"). Coll manages to weave his research into a narrative that sometimes has the feel of a Tom Clancy novel yet never crosses into excess. While comprehensive, Coll's book may be hard going for those looking for a direct account of the events leading to the 9-11 attacks. The CIA's 1998 engagement with bin Laden as a target for capture begins a full two-thirds of the way into Ghost Wars, only after a lengthy march through developments during the Carter, Reagan, and early Clinton Presidencies. But this is not a critique of Coll's efforts; just a warning that some stamina is required to keep up. Ghost Wars is a complex study of intelligence operations and an invaluable resource for those seeking a nuanced understanding of how a small band of extremists rose to inflict incalculable damage on American soil. --Patrick O'Kelley

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:16 -0400)

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Provides an overview of CIA and other covert operations in Afghanistan, from the Soviet invasion in 1979 through the summer of 2001, detailing efforts to capture or kill bin Laden and the failure to stop the events of September 11th.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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