Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan

by Steve Coll


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143132509
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/05/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 784
Sales rank: 69,428
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 RoadThe Bin LadensPrivate Empire, and Directorate S.

Table of Contents

Author's Note xi

List of Maps xvii

Cast of Characters xix

Introduction 1

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

Acknowledgments 689

Notes 693

Bibliography 729

Index 737

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