Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll

Ghost Wats

The dis-oriented author has been reading about the conflict in Iraq. I recently read George Crile's Charlie Wilson's War. Steve Coll's Ghost Wars covers US involvement in Afghanistan from the time of the Soviet invasion to 9-11. This book addresses not only the war but its consequences leading up to the rise of Osama bin Ladin.

After winning World War II we rebuilt Japan and instituted the Marshall Plan in Europe. After winning the Cold War we created Al Qaeda.

It did not have to be this way.

The Cold War. The Cold War was the struggle between the US and the Soviet Union. Between the East and the West. It is called the Cold War because it never turned into a shooting war between the US and the Soviets. While there was never a direct shooting war it was still a war. A war of surrogates: Korea, Viet Nam, Afghanistan were all shooting wars. The Soviets baked North Korea and North Viet Nam against US troops. The US backed the Mujahedeen against Soviet troops.

The United States began arming the Mujahedeen indirectly through Pakistans security forces. Importantly the US provided Stinger surface to air missles to help counter the threat of Soviet aviation. Unfortunately, the distribution of US supplied arms to Islamic leaders became a power struggle in itself. Many fighters did not even know that the US was helping them.

After the Soviet withdrawal US attention turned elsewhere. The tribal rivalries that had lain dormant exploded into civil war. Rather than use our influence to stabilize the country, the US stayed hands off.

The Taliban eventually came to fill in the gap. They provided the vehicle for Osama bin Ladin to grow his nascent Al Qaeda. The eventual result was the twin towers.

Anyone who wants to understand Al Qaeda or Afghanistan should read this book.

Ghost Wars gets 5 of 5 dis-oriented smileys  ;-) ;-) ;-) ;-) ;-)

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