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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  2,611 ratings  ·  344 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 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 Unit
Kindle Edition, 779 pages
Published February 6th 2018 by Penguin Books
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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 great ...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 Q ...more
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
"The Afghan war is a humbling case study regarding the limits of American power."

The above is one of Steve Coll's conclusions,which I agree with.But a great deal of the book is heavy criticism of Pakistan and its military,and that was very off-putting and offensive for me.

The US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11 had a great deal to do with massively destabilising Pakistan.US military action took Al Qaeda terrorists out of their hiding places in Afghanistan and made them seek shelter in Pakistan
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 "
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 attem ...more
Mar 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: travel, history, asia

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
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 duplicit
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 long to ...more
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 grammatically
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 t
May 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The haunting and epic story of the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, told from the viewpoint of the people serving on the front lines. I must include a disclaimer in this review- I had previously read Ghost Wars by the same author and felt it fully deserved the Pulitzer prize it eventually won. That being said, this effort rises to the same high bar of investigative journalism. An excellent starting point for anyone looking to learn more about America's longest war effort. ...more
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 defeati
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.
It took me nearly four months to get through Coll's 700-page opus on the enormously disorganized Afghan War, the main reason being that every single paragraph is packed with nerve-wrecking and somehow always relevant detail. Each character, agent, officer, soldier, politician, farmer, or suicide bomber is portrayed as closely as possible in order for the reader to get a sense of the individual background that daily papers or journals often lack. It took Coll ten years and over 500 interviews to ...more
Aug 12, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thanks to Steve Coll's exhaustive (and sometimes exhausting) work I am now an armchair expert on the War in Afghanistan! Well, not really, but certainly a lot better informed than I had been before.

The main title, Directorate S is a bit of a misnomer. Although the Pakistani intelligence agency's shadow looms over most of the book, Directorate S is really about the United States' foreign policy and military operations - both overt and covert - in Afghanistan after 9/11. And where we get dozens of
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 Afghanis
Sotiris Makrygiannis
Apr 23, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: audio-book, internet
A very detailed description of events in the war against terrorism. Covered both sides rather well on the political struggles between the players.
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 a
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
I lost interest in the audio and read. It's my fault. ...more
Mar 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Long and detailed, but a fascinating read.
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 n
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. P ...more
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 i ...more
Apr 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Afghan war is a still-unfolding, incredibly complex chapter in contemporary world history. Steve Coll's highly detailed & exhaustive study provides a nuanced insight into the period from 2001 to 2016, and discuss the issue from the perspective of multiple stake holders. This 700-page-tome is very well researched and uncovers new, fascinating facets in virtually each chapter. This absolute page-turner is truly an impressive work. I now look forward to reading his earlier work, "Ghost Wars". ...more
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the follow up to Coll’s book 'Ghost Wars', which told the story of covert US support for the Afghan Mujaheddin in their long war against the Soviet occupiers, 1979-90. This book details the US’s own war against the same fighters [Taliban and other groups, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan] following their toppling of the Taliban regime after 9/11 as they sought to destroy Al Qaida. The main title of the book refers to the secretive department in the Pakistan ISI secret service, which indi ...more
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.”

- 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,
Bilal Shakir
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 i
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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 the Stree

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