To understand what this book is all about, it is important to look at its subtitle as well. It is about the CIA’s role in Operation Enduring Freedom, launched to defeat the Taliban, who had been sheltering Osama bin Laden, and the kaleidoscopic interaction between the US, its ally, Pakistan, as well as the country it sought to ‘free’—Afghanistan. Following its termination in December 2014, we have entered another complicated round of the US-Afghan-Pakistan relationship.
This book should be seen as the indispensable second volume of a history of a conflict that has wracked South Asia since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. In the first volume, Ghost Wars, Steve Coll looked at the CIA’s secret history in the period between 1979 and its aftermath, its role in the rise of bin Laden and 9/11.