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Directorate S
Cover of Directorate S
Directorate S
The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan
A finalist for the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award in 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.
A finalist for the 2018 National Book Critics Circle Award in 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.
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  • Library Journal

    September 15, 2017

    Following 2004's Pulitzer Prize-winning, New York Times best-selling Ghost Wars, which focused on America's involvement in Afghanistan prior to 9/11, this book concentrates on our efforts in Afghanistan to destroy the Taliban and Al Qaeda post-9/11. Even as we (sometimes) worked with I.S.I., Pakistan's intelligence agency, I.S.I. created the secret Directorate S to support the Taliban and thus further Pakistan's own influence.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    November 1, 2017
    The acclaimed journalist delivers "a second volume" of the history he recounted in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars (2004).Based on hundreds of interviews and thousands of pages of documents, New Yorker staff writer Coll's (Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power, 2012, etc.) latest journalistic masterpiece "seeks to provide a thorough, reliable history of how the C.I.A., I.S.I., and Afghan intelligence agencies influenced the rise of a new war in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, and how that war fostered a revival of Al Qaeda, allied terrorist networks, and eventually, branches of the Islamic state." Coll succeeds on all levels, and his prodigious research leads to only one conclusion: while the United States has won some battles in the so-called war on terror, it has unquestionably lost the war while feeding the radical fires of countless terrorists. The author demonstrates what he has suggested previously and what dozens of other authors have learned: that the U.S. has largely destroyed Afghanistan while trying to save it, similar to what occurred during the Vietnam War. The most prominent actor in this second volume is Pakistan. There are numerous examples of Pakistani factions promising to assist the American-led war on terror only to break promises while raking in billions of dollars in foreign aid. Whether the administration is that of George W. Bush or Barack Obama, the author's reporting demonstrates countless foolish decisions by the CIA, the Pentagon, and the White House. The State Department comes across as slightly less foolish but not devoid of criticism. Coll is masterful at plumbing the depths of agencies and sects within both Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the murderous groups that have become the main targets of the war on terror. The cast of characters at the beginning of the book will help readers keep track of all the players.In this era of fake news, Coll remains above it all, this time delivering an impeccably researched history of "diplomacy at the highest levels of government in Washington, Islamabad, and Kabul."

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 18, 2017
    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.

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