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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 » User review

Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001

A book released December 28, 2004 by Steve Coll

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One of the Better Post 9-11 Histories

  • Feb 27, 2009
Rating:
+5
Coll provides a highly detailed, well written account of the history of the CIA and United States in Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion to 9/11.  I highly recommend this work for anyone who is interested in how we came to the point we are in Afghanistan post-9/11, and how we inadvertently provided Bin Laden fertile ground for a successful terrorist operation.


Frankly, after reading this account, I became empathetic toward the CIA, Clinton and those in his administration, and the Pakistani and Saudi governments. Clearly their positions and actions lead to the rise of the Taliban. While lots of mistakes and maybe some shortsightedness existed among these players, they were all dealing with intricate and sensitive internal political issues that drove their decisions, or in the case of the United States, lack of action, in post-Soviet Afghanistan.

While Bin Laden would likely have existed without the safe haven he found in Afghanistan, his ability to train and draw followers so freely and with impunity is partially "blowback" from actions taken by the CIA, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia during the Soviet-Afghan war as money and weapons poured into the country.

There is also quite a bit of information about Ahmed Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance. It's interesting to speculate how more assistance to Massoud might have thwarted or overthrown the Taliban and as a result push Bin Laden into less favorable circumstances. But given Massoud's failure as a political leader in his first opportunity, the brutality of his troops, and being an ethnic minority in his country, again one can empathize with why the United States was reluctant to pin their hopes on him.

If you are trying to decide which of the very large number of books about Afghanistan, the Taliban, and Bin Laden are worth reading, this is one of them.

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Post a Comment
February 27, 2009
Thanks for the comment. This book pretty much stops at 9-11 but it does, I think, a great job of the politics and history and mistakes that led us up to 9-11.
 
February 27, 2009
I really love books that delve into uncovering just what went wrong with our Middle Eastern foreign policy, so I'll definitely pick this one up. Does the book literally stop at September 10, 2001, or does it provide some opinions/insight into our course of action since then? Unfortunately, I feel so many of our foreign policy problems revolve around our (somewhat purposeful) lack of knowledge on ethnic and religious differences, as was the case with Iraq where they said most State Department officials had no idea what the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslim is.
 
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More Ghost Wars: The Secret History... reviews
Quick Tip by . June 21, 2010
I just started reading this and it's great.
About this book

Wiki

An account of the history of the CIA and United States in Afghanistan from the Soviet invasion to 9/11.  
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Details

ISBN-10: 0143034669
ISBN-13: 978-0143034667
Author: Steve Coll
Publisher: Penguin (Non-Classics)
Date Published: December 28, 2004
First to Review
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