A gripping account of America’s longest war

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The hunt for hearts and minds

Directorate S: The CIA and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016. By Steve Coll. Penguin Press; 748 pages; $35. Allen Lane; £25.

HOW to account for America’s failure in its longest war? For Steve Coll, the conflict in Afghanistan has proved to be a “humbling case study in the limits of American power”. Sixteen years after the invasion, and despite military or aid efforts from 59 countries, Afghanistan is unstable, violent and poor. Afghans remain vulnerable to a resurgent Taliban army.

Few writers are better placed than Mr Coll, a journalist and former head of the New America Foundation, a think-tank, to explain why. In “Ghost Wars”, published in 2004, he assessed the years before the attacks of September 11th 2001; it won a Pulitzer prize and is required reading on the region, especially on the foibles of America’s spies. “Directorate S” is the sequel. In it Mr…Continue reading

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