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Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001
STEVE COLL

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll
210 reviews (2004) (738p)
Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction Winner

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Book Description
To what extent did America's best intelligence analysts grasp the rising threat of Islamist radicalism? Who tried to stop bin Laden and why did they fail? Comprehensively and for the first time, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Steve Coll recounts the history of the covert wars in Afghanistan that fueled Islamic militancy and sowed the seeds of the September 11 attacks. Based on scrupulous research and firsthand accounts by key government, intelligence, and military personnel both foreign and American, Coll details the secret history of the CIA's role in Afghanistan, the rise of the Taliban, the emergence of bin Laden, and the failed efforts by U.S. forces to find and assassinate bin Laden in Afghanistan.


Amazon.com Review
Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 offers revealing details of the CIA's involvement in the evolution of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the years before the September 11 attacks. From the beginning, Coll shows how the CIA's on-again, off-again engagement with Afghanistan after the end of the Soviet war left officials at Langley with inadequate resources and intelligence to appreciate the emerging power of the Taliban. He also demonstrates how Afghanistan became a deadly playing field for international politics where Soviet, Pakistani, and U.S. agents armed and trained a succession of warring factions. At the same time, the book, though opinionated, is not solely a critique of the agency. Coll balances accounts of CIA failures with the success stories, like the capture of Mir Amal Kasi. Coll, managing editor for the Washington Post, covered Afghanistan from 1989 to 1992. He demonstrates unprecedented access to records of White House meetings and to formerly classified material, and his command of Saudi, Pakistani, and Afghani politics is impressive. He also provides a seeming insider's perspective on personalities like George Tenet, William Casey, and anti-terrorism czar, Richard Clarke ("who seemed to wield enormous power precisely because hardly anyone knew who he was or what exactly he did for a living"). Coll manages to weave his research into a narrative that sometimes has the feel of a Tom Clancy novel yet never crosses into excess. While comprehensive, Coll's book may be hard going for those looking for a direct account of the events leading to the 9-11 attacks. The CIA's 1998 engagement with bin Laden as a target for capture begins a full two-thirds of the way into Ghost Wars, only after a lengthy march through developments during the Carter, Reagan, and early Clinton Presidencies. But this is not a critique of Coll's efforts; just a warning that some stamina is required to keep up. Ghost Wars is a complex study of intelligence operations and an invaluable resource for those seeking a nuanced understanding of how a small band of extremists rose to inflict incalculable damage on American soil. --Patrick O'Kelley


Other Award Winning Books by Steve Coll
Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power by Steve Coll
49 reviews (2012) (704p) (Amazon Top100)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page
The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family In An American Century by Steve Coll
46 reviews (2008) (688p) (PP Bio) (NBCCA Bio) (ALA Non)
Read Reviews | Visit this book's Amazon.com page

Steve Coll Award Stats
Major Prize* Nominations 4  
Unique Books Nominated for a Major Prize* 2  
Pulitzer Prize Wins 1 Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 ·  
Pulitzer Prize Nominations 2 Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 · The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family In An American Century ·  
National Book Critics Circle Award Wins 0  
National Book Critics Circle Award Nominations 1 The Bin Ladens: An Arabian Family In An American Century ·  
National Book Award Wins 0  
National Book Award Nominations 0  
Man Booker Prize Wins 0  
Man Booker Prize Nominations 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Wins 0  
PEN/Faulkner Award Nominations 0  

*Major Prize = Pulitzer Prize, National Book Critics Circle Award, National Book Award, Man Booker Prize, and PEN/Faulkner Award

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