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.