Brooklyn Heights

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll discusses latest book at Brooklyn Historical Society

Brooklyn BookBeat

March 6, 2018 By Alex Wieckowski Special to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Steve Coll. Photo by Annie Schlechter

Last Thursday, after being introduced by the president of the Brooklyn History Society, author Steve Coll took the stage to discuss his latest book “Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016.”

“Directorate S” picks up from where Coll’s bestselling and Pulitzer-prize winning book Ghost Wars left off. The book tells the story of America’s attempt to defeat Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 9/11 through the use intelligence, military and diplomatic efforts.

The title of the book originates from the name of the highly secretive arm of Pakistan’s spy agency, ISI (Inter-Service Intelligence). Directorate S was the unit of Pakistan’s intelligence that was responsible for quietly training, arming and attempting to legitimize the Taliban, in order to “enlarge Pakistan’s sphere of influence in Afghanistan.” According to one estimate, Coll says, 100,000 militants are in Pakistan on ISI’s watch.

The book is told in a chronological format, bringing together interviews and roles played by CIA, U.S. presidents, diplomats, Pakistani officers and other important figures. The book also tells the story of secret negotiations held between the Taliban and the U.S., but little was accomplished since the Taliban did not fully trust America. Coll writes about several interesting events, including the escape of a Taliban commander on a motorcycle and the escape of Bin Laden from the Tora Bora cave complex.

The book ends on an unpleasant note disclosing that after 17 years of war, little has been achieved. Land occupied by the Taliban has increased and corruption continues to plague the Afghan government. Meanwhile, the U.S. has lost more than 2,400 U.S. soldiers and spent an estimated $1 trillion on the war.

After talking about his book, Coll held a question and answer session. One audience member asked Coll about the current situation of the war and when he thought it would finally end. After pausing, Coll responded by saying little progress has been made during the past decade and that the main focus of the current administration wasn’t on the war. He went on to say that the war will likely last till 2020, if not longer. Once the Q&A session was finished, listeners had a chance to meet Coll and have their book signed by the author.

Steve Coll is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Ghost Wars” and the dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. He was also president of the New America Foundation from 2007 to 2013. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker, and previously worked for 20 years at The Washington Post, where he received a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory journalism in 1990. He is the author of seven other books, including “On the Grand Trunk Road,” “The Bin Ladens” and “Private Empire.”

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