Winner of the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction
Longlisted for the 2018 National Book Award for Nonfiction
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Ghost Wars, the epic and enthralling story of America's intelligence, military, and diplomatic efforts to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11
Prior to 9/11, the United States had been carrying out small-scale covert operations in Afghanistan, ostensibly in cooperation, although often in direct opposition, with I.S.I., the Pakistani intelligence agency. While the US was trying to quell extremists, a highly secretive and compartmentalized wing of I.S.I., known as "Directorate S," was covertly training, arming, and seeking to legitimize the Taliban, in order to enlarge Pakistan's sphere of influence. After 9/11, when fifty-nine countries, led by the U. S., deployed troops or provided aid to Afghanistan in an effort to flush out the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the U.S. was set on an invisible slow-motion collision course with Pakistan.
Today we know that the war in Afghanistan would falter badly because of military hubris at the highest levels of the Pentagon, the drain on resources and provocation in the Muslim world caused by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, and corruption. But more than anything, as Coll makes painfully clear, the war in Afghanistan was doomed because of the failure of the United States to apprehend the motivations and intentions of I.S.I.'s "Directorate S". This was a swirling and shadowy struggle of historic proportions, which endured over a decade and across both the Bush and Obama administrations, involving multiple secret intelligence agencies, a litany of incongruous strategies and tactics, and dozens of players, including some of the most prominent military and political figures. A sprawling American tragedy, the war was an open clash of arms but also a covert melee of ideas, secrets, and subterranean violence.
Coll excavates this grand battle, which took place away from the gaze of the American public. With unsurpassed expertise, original research, and attention to detail, he brings to life a narrative at once vast and intricate, local and global, propulsive and painstaking.
This is the definitive explanation of how America came to be so badly ensnared in an elaborate, factional, and seemingly interminable conflict in South Asia. Nothing less than a forensic examination of the personal and political forces that shape world history, Directorate S is a complete masterpiece of both investigative and narrative journalism.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.80(d)|
About the Author
Steve Coll is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars and the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, and from 2007 to 2013 was president of the New America Foundation, a public policy institute in Washington, D.C. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and previously worked for twenty years at The Washington Post, where he received a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1990. He is the author of seven other books, including On the Grand Trunk Road, The Bin Ladens, Private Empire, and Directorate S.
Table of Contents
Author's Note xi
List of Maps xvii
Cast of Characters xix
Part 1 Blind into Battle, September 2001-December 2001
1 "Something Has Happened to Khalid" 11
2 Judgment Day 24
3 Friends Like These 43
4 Risk Management 66
5 Catastrophic Success 87
Part 2 Losing the Peace, 2002-2006
6 Small Change 115
7 Taliban for Karzai 136
8 The Enigma 147
9 "His Rules Were Different Than Our Rules" 160
10 Mr. Big 182
11 Ambassador vs. Ambassador 198
12 Digging a Hole in the Ocean 214
13 Radicals 234
Part 3 The Best Intentions, 2006-2009
14 Suicide Detectives 253
15 Plan Afghanistan 266
16 Murder and the Deep State 280
17 Hard Data 296
18 Tough Love 308
19 Terror and the Deep State 326
20 The New Big Dogs 349
21 Losing Karzai 371
22 A War to Give People a Chance 388
Part 4 The End of Illusion, 2010-2014
23 The One-man C.I.A. 415
24 The Conflict Resolution Cell 438
25 Kayani 2.0 450
26 Lives and Limbs 463
27 Kayani 3.0 494
28 Hostages 513
29 Dragon's Breath 530
30 Martyrs Day 544
31 Fight and Talk 562
32 The Afghan Hand 586
33 Homicide Division 607
34 Self-inflicted Wounds 625
35 Coups d'État 645
Epilogue: Victim Impact Statements 670
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Directorate S is possibly one of the most in-depth analysis of the war in Afghanistan and the role of the CIA and Pakistan's ISI to date, and is what the makes the book shine in comparison to the possible millions of books written on the topic. While the American public is very well aware of the CIA’s role in the war on terror and its operations in Afghanistan, people will often give you a puzzled look when you talk about Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI) and their role in Afghanistan. And it’s a shame really as the ISI has had a tremendous impact and influence on the conflict. Coll has done his research well and in depth and shines on the cultural differences in Afghanistan and just how caught in a bubble and culturally frozen in time the whole nation is. I was particular shocked to learn just how isolated from international politics the Taliban was, the Taliban leadership fully and truly believed they could take on the wrath of the US military and NATO, they just couldn’t grasp the idea that America was a superpower. People often to Afghanistan as the “Graveyard of Empires”, I disagree with this term, it’s a rather shallow view of history, rather the more appropriate term would be the “Highway to Conquest” or the “Gateway of Asia”. Caught between the interests of superpowers and wannabe superpowers.
Directorate S recaps the events in Afghanistan post 9/11. The main message of the book is that all the troubles in Afghanistan are because of ISI. ISI is no doubt upto no good in Afghanistan, has allowed terrorists to create trouble in India, and let them loose in Pakistan as well. But to blame ISI for all the issues is a stretch. Reading the book it comes through clearly that US really had no plan for Afghanistan. Al Qaeda was clearly the target but no thought process to what happens after you bomb a country that is barely functional. Instead of finishing off Al Qaeda resources were diverted to Iraq so they slipped out and regrouped. When resources were provided some years later, the US tried all kinds of things but with limited success. The problem was compounded by having the CIA, Pentagon, and State Dept. not being on the same page. Nonetheless its a well written book that recaps events across the years.