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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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1,782265,984 (4.17)44
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This book chronicles the rise of the jihadist movement, starting with mujahedin fighters in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. It continues with the rise of the Taliban and the influence and collaboration with bin Laden. The book ends on September 10, 2001. When reading this book you’ll find yourself continually asking why THEY didn’t listen to THOSE who were shouting warnings. ( )
  LamSon | Apr 27, 2018 |
Interesting and important reading even in 2017 with the basic facts leading up to 9/11 pretty well known by anyone who has devoted even modest attention to the subject. Where the book excels in my opinion is in describing just how U.S. policy is crafted at the highest levels. And it does not make for reassuring reading. Competing agencies, agendas, philosophies and personalities at the highest levels of the U.S. Government make policy really, really difficult to get right or to change. That is just the nature of our system. The big takeaway from this book is how little has changed since those years. We remain tethered to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan in a way that almost defies belief. They were both shown in this book to have had huge roles in the rise and success of Islamic extremism whether through support of the Taliban or the funding of ideological madhouse madrassas that generated countless volunteers for the worldwide Jihad. Neither of those salient facts have changed in 16 years. The Saudis (and others) continue to fund Wahabist thought worldwide, the Paks (ISI) still support the Taliban and the U.S. continues to pretend both are our 'allies'. They say that generals like to fight the 'last war', especially if they won. The U.S. seems to still want to fight the last war (Cold War) as a national strategy, i.e. vs. the Russians. The only war that matters in the world today is the one against the ideology of Islam, which clearly seeks to dominate the world. It's kind of like reading Mein Kampf, the Koran spells out with great clarity the plans and goals of Islam but the West prefers to bury it's collective head in the dirt and scream about 'the Russians are coming'! ( )
1 vote PCorrigan | Oct 8, 2017 |
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. ( )
1 vote collingsruth | Oct 27, 2014 |
Incredible outline of what the U.S. is up against in the Middle East. ( )
  Richard.J.Schneider | Apr 18, 2013 |
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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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"Comprehensively and for the first time, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll tells the secret history of the CIA's role in Afghanistan, including its covert program against Soviet troops from 1979 to 1989, and examines the rise of the Taliban, the emergence of bin Laden, and the secret efforts by CIA officers and their agents to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan after 1998. Based on extensive firsthand accounts, Ghost Wars is the inside story that goes well beyond anything previously published on U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. It chronicles the roles of midlevel CIA officers, their Afghan allies, and top spy masters such as Bill Casey, Saudi Arabia's Prince Turki al-Faisal, and George Tenet. And it describes heated debates within the American government and the often poisonous, mistrustful relations between the CIA and foreign intelligence agencies."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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