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

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  1,800 ratings  ·  254 reviews
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 ofGhost 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
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Kindle Edition, 779 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Penguin Books
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Start your review of Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Jeffrey Keeten
”America failed to achieve its aims in Afghanistan for many reasons: underinvestment in development and security immediately after the Taliban’s fall; the drains on resources and the provocations caused by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq; corruption fed by N.A.T.O. contracting and C.I.A. deal making with strongmen; and military hubris at the highest levels of the Pentagon. Yet the failure to solve the riddle of I.S.I. and to stop its covert interference in Afghanistan became, ultimately, the ...more
Michael Finocchiaro
Directorate S is the gripping sequel to Steve Coll's Pulitzer winning Ghost Wars about the longest war in American history - the war in Afghanistan. The first book stopped on 10 September 2001 whereas this book picks up right as the World Trade Center towers are struck and chaos erupts. As in Ghost Wars, the research is astounding and the narrative both interesting and captivating. The author seeks to explain why America got into this quagmire and why it has lasted from the aftermath of the Al ...more
Murtaza
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2018
Reading Ghost Wars many years ago provided a great background education on the history of the U.S. War on Terror. This book is billed as a continuation of that history, focused primarily on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan that began in 2001. Directorate S aims to be a definitive narrative of that period and as such covers a lot of ground, running to over 700 pages that cover everything from top-level political negotiations to accounts of ground-level combat in specific theaters of the ...more
Steven Z.
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In 2004 Steve Coll earned his second Pulitzer Prize for GHOST WARS: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE CIA, AFGHANISTAN AND BIN LADEN, FROM THE SOVIET INVASION TO SEPTEMBER 10, 2001. The book provided a reliable analytical approach as it explained what led to al-Qaeda’s rise amidst Afghanistan’s civil war which culminated with the attack on September 11th. Coll’s new book DIRECTORATE S: THE CIA AND AMERICA’S SECRET WARS IN AFGHANISTAN AND PAKISTAN, 2001-2016 picks up where GHOST WARS leaves off and ...more
Stephen Yoder
Dec 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-read
Wow. The scope of this book is simply impressive. It covers 15 years, several nations, a wide scope of characters, many government agencies, leaders that come & go, and so many covert actions from all sides. I enjoyed this book thoroughly. I don't anticipate ever visiting Afghanistan or Pakistan so this is the closest I'll get to learning about the endless intrigue inside & between these two nations. Coll calls out all of follies surrounding the American involvement. It would take me too ...more
Martin
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, asia, travel

When Afghanistan was in the news after the twin towers destruction reporters mentioned the "Northern Alliance". At the time I knew nothing about them. This book gave me the full details of the part they played in yet another Afgan war.


Scary debates among the CIA on bombing a school in order to kill an enemy agent or not...

While watching the video feed from a drone following a targeted truck they could see a dog in the back. They mentioned that the dog might also die. Then the dog jumped off the
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Uptownbookwormnyc
Ugh, I'm finally finished with this book. 2 stars feels too harsh for such an epic effort but I also don't think it really deserves 3 full stars.

At nearly 700 pages spanning 15 years, I feel the book lost the forest for the trees to some degree. Jam-packed with names & personages, add in the alphabet soup of government offices (NSF, NSC, ISI, ISAF...) & military terms (APOBS & MICLICs, etc.), journalistically sound I found it a little lacking in analytic depth. And more than a few
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Bob Mayer
Feb 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read if one wishes to begin to understand our entanglement in the longest "war" in our history. The author has done meticulous research and had access to the real players, both Americans and overseas.

The title refers to the Pakistani Intelligence Agency and that is a big part of the story-- how the loyalties of many involved are divided or even the opposite of what they proclaim.

If anyone has a desire to go beyond jingoism and sound bites, this is a great book to dive into, but it is a
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Zainab
Jun 05, 2018 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this book. I heard great things about Steve Coll and his last book, "Ghost Wars" that won him Pulitzer award. I grew up with War on Terror raging first in Afghanistan and then in my own country, Pakistan so it was natural for me to be curious about it What happened and what I should assume about the future? I wanted to seek some answers. Did it provide the answers? Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no. Overall, it was underwhelming.

George Orwell's collection of essays title is called
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Jerome
Apr 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A vivid, well-researched and painful history of US involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2001 to 2016, picking up where Coll left off in Ghost Wars.

Much of the story is built around CIA’s relationship with ISI, but Coll clearly describes the policy decisions made and implemented by the US government, the military, and the intelligence community; how these decisions affected US relations with Pakistan and the course of America's longest war; how views on Pakistan’s reliability and
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Charles
Sep 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If You’re Not Winning, You’re Losing. And yet you don’t know how to quit

Directorate S derives its name from a branch of Pakistani intelligence. Although the role of Pakistan is prominent in author Steve Coll’s examination of America’s struggle in Afghanistan, this is a larger and more complex analysis of what has become a war without end.

If you’re not winning, you’re losing. One could be reading about the failed strategy in Vietnam as we learn about General Petraeus’ military solution to
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Zubair  Ashraf
May 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
An apologetic account of the USA beginning and nearly losing a war they are still embroiled in. The book is well researched but it’s biased towards the Pakistan Army and it’s agencies as was the case in Ghost wars. Apparently Pakistani agencies are the reason for a lot of chaos yet American policies just didn’t work out or failed which is Ironic.
Dan Graser
Jul 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Steve Coll's previous work, "Ghost Wars," has been considered the finest work of investigative journalism in recent memory, garnering great critical acclaim in addition to the Pulitzer Prize. With this hugely ambitious follow-up to that work, Coll has done it again in an absorbing work of almost 800 pages.

Set in the the years following 9/11, Coll focuses on the stupendously inept trifecta of our foreign intelligence and military misadventures, the ever-shifting loyalty and skepticism of
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Wilson
Outstanding historical rollup since September 11th, 2001. A great follow up to “Ghost Wars”.

It’s terribly sobering to know you were part of the story when it comes to Afghanistan, with your gut telling you there’s no solution. Then comes this outstanding author and historian, who confirms your suspicions on the ground with the behind-the-scenes politics across the US, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and even China and Russia.

This serves as a strong reminder of how compartmented our foreign policy
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Martin
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Journalist Steve Coll's Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 was sublime journalism, the winner of a 2005 Pulitzer Prize. It documented the rise of Islamist radicalism and U.S. intelligence agencies' involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan from 1979 -- the momentous year of the Soviet invasion and Iranian revolution -- to Sept. 10, 2001. It is among a handful of books that one must read, along with Lawrence Wright's ...more
Karen
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Long and detailed, but a fascinating read.
Sotiris Makrygiannis
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: internet, audio-book
A very detailed description of events in the war against terrorism. Covered both sides rather well on the political struggles between the players.
Athan Tolis
Aug 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Eight days it took me to read through this monster of a sequel to Ghost Wars.

It helps, of course, that the author is discussing history here. Ghost Wars was all about the tragic mistakes that led up to Al Qaeda’s “finest hour,” the simultaneous assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Afghanistan and the felling of the twin towers in September of 2001.

Directorate S is about Afghani history since September 2001, told from the angle of the invading Americans. It’s 700 pages short.

That the book is
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Abdul
Mar 28, 2018 rated it it was ok
I was massively disappointed by the book, owing to the fact that it doesn't provide any new information about the agency it is named after. It does a good job of summarizing the second Afghan war(2001-till date) and what the Afghan and American sides were thinking. There are far better books on ISI available in the market (the one by Owen L Sirrs is superior to the one by Hein G Kessling). As far as the hunt for Bin Laden is concerned, the book 'The Exile' by Adrian Levy is much more detailed. ...more
Ocl
May 03, 2018 rated it it was ok
Phew, that was one difficult book to read! Though it was redeemed by including so many tragic anecdotes of American losses, disappointing agreement attempt results, and huge follies, it was difficult to stay focused. The author bombards the reader with middle eastern names, acronyms, and jumps from Afghani gov't leaders, organizations, resistors, to the Pakistani equals and their interrelationships, including our American participants spanning three administrations, on all 650 pages! This book ...more
Jared
Mar 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: afpak, terrorism
Afghan poetry says that: “Whenever there is trouble in Afghanistan, there is trouble in all of Asia.”

PURPOSE OF BOOK
- Directorate S 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. The book also seeks to connect American, Afghan, Pakistani,
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Katie/Doing Dewey
Dec 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Summary: This was well written and the author provided a good amount of help (yay for cast lists!), but it was still a tough read.

I enjoyed reading the National Book Award nonfiction shortlist enough that I decided to keep going with the longlist! I was a little dubious about this book on the war in Afghanistan, because neither wars nor current events are my favorite topic. I also feel more concerned about the objectivity of books as their topics become more recent. This particular book was
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Shah Husain
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
*Directorate S* is a scintillating book that is painstakingly written by analyzing heaps of governmental white papers, formal and informal interviews, and leaked cables that are a reflection of the author's analytical prowess. In this sense, Directorate S is a fitting sequel to Ghost Wars that was similarly well-researched and packaged. It also helps that Steve Coll is one of the saner voices in DC when it comes to journalism on security issues in South Asia.

However, despite the overwhelmingly
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Evan
May 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In my opinion, not as good as Ghost Wars. Maybe because the US looks fairly effective against the Soviets in Ghost Wars, and Directorate S covers the US war in Afghanistan... I felt like there was more detail, and maybe that made it more technical and less of a smooth narrative than Ghost Wars.

This book covers mistakes made by the US military as it began operating in Afghanistan post 9/11. It also goes into more detail about Pakistan's efforts to destabilize Afghanistan and their continual
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Sameer
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This Book is one of most comprehensive and exhaustive study of the war in Afghanistan from late 1990s through to 2017. The sheer coverage of period is staggering.

As the name suggests, the book's primary focus is on Pakistani Military Intelligence organization "Inter Services Intelligence" (ISI) but with specific highlight of one of its directorates Directorate S, which created Taliban.

The book covers various strategic as well as tactical approaches tried over the years, one such being the
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Lynn
This is a review of the audiobook. It is well read and clearly by Malcolm Hillgartner, who has read many audiobooks. Directorate S is a secret division of Pakistan's ISI, Pakistan's Intelligence Agency. It was this agency that helped the Taliban and probably hid Osama Bin Laden's location in Pakistan. Steve Coll's book picks up where his Ghost Wars left off. Ahmad Shah Massoud has been assassinated just before 9/11. He had been warning the CIA of an imminent attack on the U.S. and killed before ...more
Leo Walsh
Oct 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
A sprawling, detailed look at American misadventures n Afghanistan. Which tracks how the W. Bush White House took a winnable war against the repressive Taliban and mucked it up by simply taking its eye off the prize by channeling money and resources into an unnecessary, ill-advised war in Iraq.

Coll tells the story with stunning depth. He uses a depth and breadth of sources to trace the history of the Afghanistan War and the tangled role that Pakistan played in it. How they at once helped the
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Mike
Jun 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonny
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this as a sprawling follow-up to Ghost Wars. It’s the most comprehensive read I’ve found on the ISI/US/Afghan relationship, and walks you through a *lot* of semi-forgotten examples of how dysfunctional the relationship was (I’d completely forgotten about the initial abortive talks with the Taliban). As was the case with Ghost Wars, the thing that is most striking is how unstrategic - and often outright incoherent - US policy in the region was.

The only thing that stops me giving
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UAE Good Readers: History book 5 57 Mar 29, 2018 10:55AM  

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Steve Coll is President & CEO of New America Foundation, and a staff writer at The New Yorker magazine. Previously he spent 20 years as a foreign correspondent and senior editor at The Washington Post, serving as the paper's managing editor from 1998 to 2004.

He is author six books, including The Deal of the Century: The Break Up of AT&T (1986); The Taking of Getty Oil (1987); Eagle on
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“In the Oval Office, President Bush told Khalilzad, “Musharraf denies all of what you are saying.” “Didn’t they deny, Mr. President, for years that they had a nuclear program?” 8 Bush said he would call Musharraf and arrange for the ambassador to meet with him, to discuss the accusations directly. Khalilzad flew to Islamabad. Beforehand, he sent Musharraf a gift, a crate of Afghan pomegranates. When they sat down, Musharraf thanked him, but added that he hated pomegranates—too many seeds. They talked extensively about Musharraf’s usual complaints about the Afghan government—too many Panjshiris in key security positions, too many Indian spies under diplomatic cover in Kabul and elsewhere. Khalilzad proposed a joint intelligence investigation between the United States and Pakistan to document any covert Indian activity in Afghanistan. “There are no Taliban here,” Musharraf said blankly. 9” 4 likes
“One view at the highest levels of the U.S. embassy in Kabul by summer’s end was that Karzai “was a very clever madman—just because he was insane doesn’t mean he was stupid.” 3 likes
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