Afghanistan
Photo by Staff Sgt. Marcus J. Quarterman used under a Creative Commons license.

Steve Coll, Ghost Wars (Penguin, 2004).
A hefty and comprehensive history of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan from December, 1979, when Soviet troops invaded, to September, 2001. Coll, formerly managing editor of the The Washington Post and now a writer with The New Yorker, has spent his time in the archives, and he conveys the effects of domestic politics in the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. The dominant arm of the U.S. government was the CIA, which engaged first with Afghans fighting the Soviets, and then fitfully with pro-Western factions after the Soviet withdrawal. Though no criticism of Coll, readers will wish he could continue the account through to the present. The book won a Pulitzer.

Here is Wikipedia’s page about Coll. Google BookSearch has all sorts of good stuff, including an excerpt. Sudheer Apte says Coll weaves together a coherent narrative. von Richthofen says it’s equal parts thrilling espionage cat and mouse dashed with the inescapable feeling of impending doom. Baltar calls it the story of one missed opportunity after another. Joshua Foust says it’s an up-close look at how foreign policy is crafted, bungled, and short-handed. Amer Latif (Naval War College Review) calls it useful, if overly long. Martin Wisse says it’s fascinating but depressing. Deano thinks it’s gripping and well-written. American Pundit calls it challenging and interesting. T R Santhanakrishnan says Coll offers profound insight. Barack Obama read it days before the election. Here is Coll at the World Affairs Council. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez interviewed Coll on Democracy Now! Coll chatted at washingtonpost.com. You can watch Harry Kreisler interview Coll, or Coll on the Charlie Rose show. Suzy Hansen interviewed Coll for Salon. And here is more from WordPress blogs.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

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