Steve Coll’s books are a class apart. He is undisputedly the authority on Pakistan-Afghanistan-America affairs and nexus. His latest book, Directorate S, coming after an equally important book on the same subject ‘Ghost Wars’, is a testimony to his depth and diligence.
It is fascinating to read about the many games that each of the players – Bush and Obama’s administration in the US, Karzai in Afghanistan and Kayani and Pasha in Pakistan – had resorted to in last more than a decade or so.
In the end the book concludes wryly: “Afghanistan remained at war. The Taliban remained a vicious enemy, and there were new threats to the country now, such as the Islamic state”.
The book essentially highlights the deception and duplicity of the ISI leadership in Pakistan, especially under Kayani and Pasha. For example, Kayani as the Army Chief of Pakistan was authorising a statement from Taliban in Mullah Omar’s name pretending to be not knowing about the Taliban chief’s whereabouts, while at that very moment Mullah Omar was actually dead of TB at a Karachi hospital.
Many such deceptions that Coll narrates in his book prompt Obama to conclude: “We have to stay tough with these guys”, a lesson probably more important for us Indians.
Rich, informative and instructive, Directorate S is a valuable reading.
Just one warning though. The book runs into almost 700 pages and one should be prepared for long reading. It won’t bore or disappoint you.