Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan, 2001–2016

Steve Coll. Penguin Press, $35 (740p) ISBN 978-1-59420-458-6
Coll (Private Empire), dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, picks up where his Pulitzer Prize–winning Ghost Wars left off, offering what is perhaps the most comprehensive work to date on the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The book takes its title from the department, also known as “S Wing,” in Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) that is charged with undertaking illegal operations, including those related to Afghanistan. Based on hundreds of interviews and primary source documents, the work focuses on the secret struggle between the ISI and the CIA as both institutions sought to operate in the divergent interests of their countries, while simultaneously appearing to cooperate. Coll makes the crucial point that the success or failure of U.S. policy in Afghanistan has always been inextricably tied to the success or failure of the U.S. policy toward Pakistan. Among the book’s many virtues, it avoids adopting a U.S.-centric view. The policies, interests, and important figures of the three nations and (to a lesser extent) the Taliban are all given appropriate weight. Coll’s vital work provides a factual and analytical foundation for all future work on the Afghan War and U.S. policy in Central Asia. Maps. Agent: Melanie Jackson, Melanie Jackson Agency. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/18/2017
Release date: 02/06/2018
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-0-525-52857-9
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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