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Publisher's Summary

Resuming the narrative of his Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars, best-selling author Steve Coll tells for the first time 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 59 countries, led by the US, deployed troops or provided aid to Afghanistan in an effort to flush out the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the US 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 US-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.

©2017 Steve Coll (P)2017 Penguin Audio

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Slow At Times But Always Horrifying And Engaging

If you aren't horrified and heartsick after listening to Directorate S, you need to listen to it again. It might take that: I listened to it twice because, while extraordinarily well-researched, it packs soooo much of EVERYthing, every move, every plot, every person involved, it sometimes has a tendency to drag. But if you listen carefully, you might feel rage, horror, a certain sense of helpless dread.
Every person from the young wannabe terrorist, to the absolutely most soulless of operatives, from the politician with a bit of knowledge, to the politician who should know better, from the sociopaths of Pakistan, to the paranoid of Afghanistan is/are covered in great detail.
Steve Coll has pulled together a most fascinating work, and I wound up feeling bouts of shame, bouts of exasperation and anger.
While, as I said, it does drag a bit at first, it's always engaging, and if the subject matter is anything of interest to you, you'll be well-pleased with Coll's results.
You can't get any more in-depth than Directorate S. And you won't feel any more helpless than when you come to its conclusion. There's plenty of blame to go around; nobody gets a pass. And we as the American people are left holding a mixed bag of chaos...

21 of 24 people found this review helpful

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All the detail you could want

This was not a barn burner, but it was an extremely detailed account and for 27 hours the presentation is rather fluid and digestable. I can not imagine how much work it took to put this book together. Congratulations to the author on his accomplishment. Oh, and Afghanistan . . . goodness what a hot mess!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Superb!

Excellent sequel to Ghost Wars. Coll does not take sides nor take a polemic approach. One finishes the book convinced that America’s adventure in Afghanistan was an epic mistake but with good intentions. The ISI was largely responsible for the chaos in Afghanistan but the leaders are not evil. Karzai was an asshole and yet often correct about what was wrong about US policy. The narrator does an excellent job.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Steve Coll and his researchers deliver again. A+

What made the experience of listening to Directorate S the most enjoyable?

I was hooked in from start to finish by this book. I was a fan of the author's previous work, Ghost Wars, and since this is a sequel (Afghanistan 2001 - present) I naturally was interested. Just as good as the first chapter in the series.

Any additional comments?

Terrific read.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Outstanding history

This book reveals the long, ultimately unsuccessful American effort to eradicate terrorism in Afghanistan. An essential look at nearly two decades of a war that was begun without anyone's knowing who the real enemy was. A brilliant analysis compellingly written.

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Explains what a commitment of war is.

Loved it, modern day history explained as its best. Trump fired some great fighters. He for one should read or listen to this book.

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excellent. very detailed. well written

Just like the first volume , Steve Coll. tells this sad, cautionary tale as though it were a fiction novel
I wish that were true

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excellent

couldn't stop listening. deeply researched but never slow. lot's of fresh reporting here for a subject that has been written about many times before.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Objective, detailed and engaging

Steve Coll has done a great job of capturing 15 years of US war in Afghanistan. What I loved about this book is that it keeps objectivity in mind while presenting events and the author has argued events from different point of views. Though at times it felt as if author is repeating commonly held beliefs without presenting facts to establish them like ISI’s support for Afghan Taliban was repeated many times without providing hard evidence in every scenario except for few occasions.

The book sheds light on various decisions and their fallouts which are eye opening. Role of White House, CIA, Pentagon, ISI, NDS etc are explained in detail which help explain Afghan war.

I found it revealing that book acknowledges Afghanistan’s spy organization NDS’s ties with Pakistani Taliban to help carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

Overall objective, detailed and engaging account of US war in Afghanistan which helps readers understand it in detail.

2 of 5 people found this review helpful

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in depth

overall his book is an insanely in-depth and detailed insider account of the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. it is LONG..... the only distraction is the authors political views

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-25-18

Thorough picture of the crazy conflict of our time

loved it till the end. hope policy makers heed the mistakes and blunders mentioned in the book.