Steve Coll


Coll, Steve.

1 . "Anatomy of a Victory: CIA's Covert Afghan War." Part 1 of 2. Washington Post, 19 Jul. 1992, 1, 24.

2. "In CIA's Covert Afghan War, Where to Draw the Line Was Key." Part 2 of 2. Washington Post, 20 Jul. 1992, 1, 12. "The Other Battle for Afghanistan." Washington Post National Weekly Edition, 31 Aug.- 6 Sep. 1992, 10-11.


Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. New York: Penguin, 2004.

Clark comment: Heavy and nuanced, this is a compelling work. Reading it is somewhat like watching the rerun of a train wreck the results of which you already know. This book is well-written but still is not easy going because of the massive amount of detail included. However, skim reading did not seem to work because the narrative is so tightly woven. Although there is no indication anywhere on the cover or inside, the "Afterword" of my paperback copy makes plain that it is a second edition with some changes from the first edition.

Bamford, Washington Post, 29 Feb. 2004, says the author has produced "a well-written, authoritative, high-altitude drama." Coll "is at his best when describing the convoluted relationships among the Afghan warlords and the resident spooks." Grasso, NIPQ 20.3, calls this "possibly the most comprehensive study available on the subject of Afghanistan, Bin Laden and the CIA's activities in South West Asia." The author "manages to dispassionately present the facts and circumstances so that political coloration will come solely from the reader.... While the story that Coll tells is a fascinating and engaging read, it is the research that makes his book so valuable."

For Latif, NWCR 58.3 (Summer 2005), the author "provides a useful, if overly long, chronology and analysis of pivotal events, missteps, indecision, apathy, and ultimately tragedy up to the day before the [9/11] attacks.... Coll meticulously documents every player and agenda in this drama.... One of the major strengths of Ghost Wars is how it skillfully captures the interagency debates within the U.S. government on Afghanistan ... which were wide-ranging and often contentious."

[CA/Afghanistan; CIA/80s/Gen & 90s/Gen]

Coll, Steve.

This series of articles is based on Coll's Ghost Wars (2004).

1. "A Secret Hunt Unravels in Afghanistan: Mission to Capture or Kill al Qaeda Leader Frustrated by Near Misses, Political Disputes." Part 1 of 2. Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2004, A1. []

"In the years before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the CIA carried out a secret but ultimately unsuccessful manhunt for [Osama] bin Laden. It was based at first on [a] band of Afghan tribal agents, and later expanded to include other agents and allies.... But the search became mired in mutual frustrations, near misses and increasingly bitter policy disputes in Washington between the Clinton White House and the CIA."

2. "Flawed Ally Was Hunt's Best Hope: Afghan Guerrilla, U.S. Shared Enemy." Part 2 of 2. Washington Post, 23 Feb. 2004, A1. []

In October 1999, the CIA plan was to initiate "secret intelligence and combat operations against bin Laden in partnership with guerrilla commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance."

However, "Massoud was seen by some at the Pentagon and inside the Clinton Cabinet as a spent force commanding bands of thugs.... Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Henry H. 'Hugh' Shelton ... argued that Massoud's alliance was tainted and in decline. But at the CIA,... career officers passionately described Massoud ... as the United States' last, best hope to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan before his al Qaeda network claimed more American lives." Massoud was assassinated on 9 September 2001.

3. "Legal Disputes Over Hunt Paralyzed Clinton's Aides." Washington Post, 22 Feb. 2004, A17. []

"Between 1998 and 2000, the CIA and President Bill Clinton's national security team were caught up in paralyzing policy disputes as they secretly debated the legal permissions for covert operations against Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. The debates left both White House counterterrorism analysts and CIA career operators frustrated and at times confused about what kinds of operations could be carried out."

[CA/Afghanistan; CIA/90s/Gen; MI/Ops/Afghanistan]

Coll, Steve. "Seized Intelligence Files Spur U.S. Investigations." Washington Post, 3 Nov. 2003, A15. []

According to U.S. officials, "[t]he CIA has seized an extensive cache of files from the former Iraqi Intelligence Service that is spurring U.S. investigations of weapons procurement networks and agents of influence who took money from the government of Saddam Hussein." The officials said that the files "contain not only the names of nearly every Iraqi intelligence officer, but also the names of their paid foreign agents, written agent reports, evaluations of agent credentials, and documentary evidence of payments made to buy influence in the Arab world and elsewhere."


Coll, Steve, and Susan B. Glasser. "Attacks Bear Earmarks of Evolving Al Qaeda: Targets, Timing Both Familiar." Washington Post, 8 Jul. 2005, A1. []

"After Sept. 11, 2001, the world learned that counterterrorism specialists had seen that kind of attack coming, they just did not know when and where it would take place. In a similar sense, they saw [the 7 July 2005] London bombings coming, too; they have been warning of such a strike on European soil for much of this year. It took only a few hours for British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to conclude that the assault bore the 'hallmarks of an al Qaeda-related attack.' And while investigators were still sifting through the evidence, the available facts ... conformed almost precisely to the methods of what specialists describe as an evolving al Qaeda movement."

[Terrorism/00s/05/Gen; UK/PostCW/00s/05]

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