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Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden Paperback – 3 Mar 2005


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Product details

  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (3 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141020806
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141020808
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 11,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon 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 US agents armed and trained a succession of warring factions. At the same time, the book, though opinionated, balances accounts of CIA failures with the success stories, such as 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 such as 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 criticism 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, Amazon.com --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Certainly the finest historical narrative so far on the origins of al Qaeda in the post-Soviet rubble of Afghanistan . . . "Ghost Wars" provides fresh details and helps explain the motivations behind many crucial decisions." -"The New York Times Book Review"

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IT WAS A SMALL RIOT in a year of upheavals, a passing thunderclap disgorged by racing skies. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Roy-Edwards Veronica on 19 May 2004
Format: Hardcover
Steve Coll's study "Ghost Wars" is the most comprehensive study of the CIA and other secret services operating in Afghanistan covering the twenty odd years preceding the September 11th attack that I have read so far. The account is based on an impressive bibliography and large number of interviews. It is factual, but the narrative is quite vivid and colourful. Personal interpretations and theorizing are prudently limited, which makes this book preferable in my opinion to other 'historical' accounts such as "Le Royaume de l'Insolence" (Barry), in which the author's personal theses concerning Islam for example (although interesting in their own right) tend to be presented as fact. Both books make very good reading for anyone with a special interest in the history and politics of Afghanistan.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Roger Kimble on 8 Feb 2011
Format: Paperback
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`Ghost Wars' is a well researched book with abundant footnotes supporting every detail. With so many Arab figures, the author wisely provides a list to allow the reader to keep track of who is who -- though a complicated read it is easy to follow. He exposes the CIAs failures in the days leading up to 9/11, while on the other hand, he eradicates many misconceptions of the CIA including rumors it often works for the enemy. This is an open and honest book of what is for the most part a closed and clandestine organization. Bravo!

Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA is an appropriate partner for this book as it defines the environment it operates in. Another well researched book by a former CIA agent Murder in the Vatican: The CIA and the Bolshevik Pontiff does a riveting job explaining why the anti-American Pope who preceded the Polish Pope survived only 33 days in the Vatican.

Get `Ghost Wars' in hardcover for your permanent collection.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Guardian TOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 Nov 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1990 Steve Coll was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism, and since 1998 has been Managing Editor of The Washington Post. Prior to this, he covered South Asia and Afghanistan for the WP between 1989 and 1992 and has a personal knowledge of and insight into the region shared by few other western reporters.

`Ghost Wars' is an extremely detailed explanatory thesis of the complex history of the Af-Pak region between the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 through the constant insurgent and civil wars of the 1980s and 1990s, narrated chronologically and ending on 9th September 2001 with the assassination of Ahmed Shah Massoud to `clear the way' for long-planned attacks on the USA by Salafi jihadists using hijacked commercial airliners as missiles to strike at the financial, military and political power centres of their declared enemy.

Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 Coll reveals the degree to which US policy in the region became muddled and unfocussed, blighted by slashed budgets, inter-agency rivalries and White House indifference. By continually choosing to back Pakistan as an ally the US inadvertently allowed militant Islam to take root in the region, only acknowledging the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and the Afghan-based Wahhabi jihadists following his declaration of war on the US in 1996, and only taking serious action (cruise missile strikes on jihadist training camps, and numerous secretly-planned but failed attempts to kill or capture bin Laden) following the African Embassy attacks in August 1998.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Foxylock on 30 Sep 2008
Format: Paperback
This literary masterpiece from Pulitzer prize winning author Steve Coll will blow your mind.The apparent relentless and exhaustive research that made this book shows Colls dedication to bringing the full story to the reader.Beginning with the US support of the Afghan fighters during the Soviet invasion and finishing just days before the attacks on 9/11 Coll will take you on a mind boggling journey encompassing delicate matters such as:the US support of the taliban,the CIA attempts to buy back Stinger missiles it had given to the Mujaheddin for $150,000 apiece!! hare brained and expensive attempts to remove Osama Bin Laden and constant policy changes and in-fighting within the CIA.Throw in the main characters:an impeached president,a president with no clue on foriegn policy,tribal leaders more concerned with personal enrichment than the liberation of their people and radical jihadists like Osama the world hide and seek champion!!Add to this mix the ineptitude of the CIA and you have an extremely interesting plot.Read this book for the story and you will become more informed on the origins of al-Qaeda,the history of Afghanistan and the entanglement of the US government.Study this book and you will see layer upon layer of CIA incompetence,could 9/11 have been prevented?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on 7 Mar 2009
Format: Paperback
I like spy non-fiction and selected this book after finding out that Barack Obama read this during his presidential campaign. The book is beyond expectations, with a complete overview and seemingly a true account of what happened in Afghanistan during the 80's and 90's. The book is very well written and the details brought about by Steve Coll are fantastic.
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