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Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 [Paperback]

Steve Coll
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 28 2004 Penguin Books
Winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize

The explosive first-hand account of America's secret history in Afghanistan

With the publication of Ghost Wars, Steve Coll became not only a Pulitzer Prize winner, but also the expert on 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.

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Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 + The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11
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"Certainly the finest historical narrative so far on the origins of al Qaeda in the post-Soviet rubble of Afghanistan . . . Ghost Wars provides fresh details and helps explain the motivations behind many crucial decisions."
-The New York Times Book Review

About the Author

Steve Coll is most recently the author of the New York Times bestseller The Bin Ladens. He is the president of the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan public policy institute headquartered in Washington, D.C., and a staff writer for The New Yorker. Previously heworked for twenty years at The Washington Post, where he received a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1990. He is the author of six other books, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller Ghost Wars.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly documented, but dry Feb. 23 2006
I was anxious to read this book since I knew very little about Afghanistan. Prey to many expanding empires over the past thousand years, this country has nevertheless maintained its identity and traditions. Strategically located between two major oil regions (southern Asia and the Middle East), Afghan civilians became victims of political, religious and economical disputes, a perfect environment for aspiring ideologies...

Steve Coll's book sparked my curiosity by providing an excellent background and introducing the most important players of the area. During the first half of the book, I was really absorbed by the characters' descriptions, the government and intelligence entities and military/religious groups. The complexity of international relations and the workings within the US bureaucracy certainly helped explain why the Government was slow in preparing for the rise of terrorists.

Unfortunately, the author dragged on detailing these complexities. The incessant squabbles between the various departments of the American Government were overemphasized and could have been summarized more efficiently. I am not arguing the value of the research: the details presented made this book an incredible source of information.

The book provided little analysis of the United States' involvement in Afghanistan after the Soviets departure and on the rise of anti-American sentiment in the Middle East. In terms of form, this book didn't grip me very much. It got to a point where I felt I was reading the newspaper. Many non-fiction books present historical material in a vivid, riveting way. This one is not one of them.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for every Canadian Dec 30 2006
As Canada is gripped in the seemingly never-ending "war on terror" in Afghanistan, Coll's Pulitzer Prize winning book provides context for the current political climate by chronicling the 30-year history of the unluckiest country in the world.

The book exposes the failed foreign policies of many former and current US administrations and intelligence agencies in Afghanistan. Coll describes in painstaking detail from the CIA support of the mujahedin against the soviets, to the abandonment of the US after the soviet retreat, the subsequent rise of the Taliban, and finally the creation of a terrorist state in al Qaeda leading up to 9/11.

The failure of the US to create a long-term strategy for Afghanistan and short-term exploitation for US interests has doomed the people of Afghanistan to a lifetime of bloody civil-war. The current lack of a clear and concise long-term plan is what will doom this unfortunate country once again.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! June 21 2012
By Mark Nenadov TOP 1000 REVIEWER
A heavy-duty treatment of the history of pre 9/11 meddling in Afghanistan. If anyone wants to understand the roots of Al-Qaeda, the war on the Taliban, and the Northern Alliance, they should certainly read this tome. No matter what your stance toward the war, if you are going to draw conclusions about these matters--a familiarity with these details is necessary.

Steve has done a fantastic job of staying balanced and maintaining a high level of objectivity. I highly recommend this, though like many other books of this type, its a long ride. You will need to be prepared to be in it for the long-haul. Make sure you pick up the latesst edition, it has been updated to factor in information that has been revealed well after 9/11. A number of blanks have been filled in, especially in cases where closed lips have been opened by more official proceedings.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Too Good. April 11 2014
By Megan
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Nine years after first publication I decided to sit down and plug through Steve Coll's Ghost Wars. I've been told repeatedly that this book is the quintessential read for the historical narrative on events that led to 9/11. Written through the lenses of US, Saudi, Pakistan foreign intelligence services, it seems to live up to its reputation.

Perhaps Ghost Wars main flaw is what makes the account so readable. It's too clean. While Coll remains fairly impartial (he could have maybe explored the US-Saudi and US-Pak relationship more), it fails to deliver the ever messy look and feel of the Af-Pak region, which swirls with conspiracy theories, rumours, perpetual duplicity and erroneous assumptions made by the kharijis or outsiders. My colleague's favourite saying is: "Never let the truth get in the way of a good story." I thought this adage applied to parts of the history (the less well-documented parts), and more so toward the end when it seemed they didn't understand what was going on in the region at all. Regardless, great book - very few could do this better than Steve Coll.
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