America’s war in Afghanistan is the longest war the U.S. has ever fought. Beginning a month after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the initial mission was to remove the Taliban from power and destroy the al-Qaida terror network. Now, nearly 17 years later, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Steve Coll points out that the war’s goals have changed.
“The objective is not a grand peace ceremony on some grand aircraft carrier,” Coll says. “It’s to reduce the violence in Afghanistan, to reduce the suffering of innocents in Kabul, to support the constitutional government that we invested in after Sept. 11 so heavily in money and in American lives and sacrifices on the battlefield.”
Coll’s new book, Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America’s Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, is a follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars, which documented U.S. involvement in the region starting with the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan until Sept. 10, 2001.
The new book — whose title is taken from the name of the Pakistani spy wing providing covert support to the Taliban — chronicles U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan since Sept. 11, 2001. Coll warns that an end to the war is not in sight.
“Most of the generals … say in public, ‘There’s no military solution to this war,'” Coll says. “This is at best a grinding stalemate. And yet, we prioritize military action at the expense of diplomacy, at the expense of negotiating.”
On the current state of the war in Afghanistan
We’re in a stalemate. We’re in a muddle. We have something like 10,000 troops there, maybe growing a little higher over the next year or so.
There are actually two wars that we’re fighting in Afghanistan, I’m not sure most Americans appreciate that. One is a direct combat war against remnants or elements of the Islamic State that have popped up in eastern Afghanistan. There President Obama initiated, and President Trump continued, a return to direct combat in Afghanistan, after previously, at the end of 2014, saying we were done with the war.