From the managing editor of The Washington Post comes this news-breaking account of the CIAUs involvement in the covert wars in Afghanistan that fueled Islamic militancy and gave rise to bin Laden's al Quaeda.
... full of square-jawed spies, bags of cash, gizmos such as the Predator drone and the secure communications link between the Panjshir Valley and Langley, but good too on less sexy subjects like Islamic madrasas and Saudi charitable foundations ... a remarkable testimony to the ability of a well-connected Washington journalist to penetrate the shadowy parts of the US government ... Coll is terrific inside the Washington beltway ... ranks as a piece of contemporary history ... It ducks some questions - not least the role of the spooks in the Afghan drugs trade. But it gives hope that we shall hear one day, from other dogged journalists, full accounts of the CIA and the hunt for Saddam's WMD; its 'renditions' of terrorist suspects; the path to Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo; de-Ba'athification and the disaster of postwar planning in Iraq; and the truth about foreign jihadis and the Sunni insurgency - and some of the other unanticipated consequences of the deadly interaction between 21st-century America and militant Islam.
... remarkable ... No one else I know of has been able to bring such a broad perspective to bear on the rise of bin Laden; the CIA itself would be hard put to beat his grasp of global events. Rarely has a book been able to anticipate, as Coll’s has, the revelations of government bureaucrats, such as Richard Clarke, about intelligence. It does so, moreover, in a more comprehensive way than the recent testimony of US officials has done ... Some writers given access to the innermost corridors of power appear mesmerized by their proximity to the real players, and it shows. It does not show in Coll’s book ... an inside account written by an outsider, the most objective history I have read of the many failures of the CIA and the US government in the region.
... a classic study of blowback and is a better, fuller reconstruction of this history than the Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States (the so-called ‘9/11 Commission Report’) ... Coll has written a powerful indictment of the CIA’s myopia and incompetence, but he seems to be in two minds. He occasionally indulges in flights of pro-CIA rhetoric...whose analysts were continually encouraged to share information as widely as possible among those with appropriate security clearances’. This is nonsense: the early-warning functions of the CIA were upstaged decades ago by covert operations.