A U.S. Army helicopter flies outside of Camp Shorab on a flight to Camp Post on September 11, 2017 at Camp Shorab in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Steve Coll’s new book “Directorate S” illustrates the political actors and motivations of America’s post-9/11 military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Coll describes muddled combat strategies, diplomatic failures and military miscalculations in what has become the United States’ longest running war. He joins us in the studio to discuss the global implications of the war and whether a military solution is possible.

Steve Coll on American Military Involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan 12 February,2018Michael Krasny

Guests:
Steve Coll, staff writer, The New Yorker; dean, Columbia Journalism School; author, "Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan"

  • jakeleone

    We need to realize that the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is caused by religious intolerance. A second war fuels the major war. That war is over opium production. The politicians in Pakistan don’t really care about the religious war, they just want votes. This is similar to the kind of pandering white southern politicians did to get white (majority) votes, only in this case it is a religious divide.

    I remember a Pakistani President commenting on a recent bombing of a Christian Church that killed around a 100 people, saying it was only a few people. That kind of gallows humour apathy is equivalent to the case where “Good men go silent”, that allows genocidal tendencies to flourish in a given country.

    Even the targeting of the U.S. was caused by a Xenophobic beliefs that foreign troops should not enter the Saudi Peninsula. If Saudi Arabia had instead encouraged religious tolerance, Osama Bin Laden might not have grown up genocidal. But that never happened and what we have now is what you get when you encourage a religious mono-culture.

  • Vern

    America had paid out billions in bribes to two faced warlords and self serving corrupt officials– even more than Indian outsourcing companies have paid in bribes to two faced self serving American tech company managers to send jobs overseas.

  • EIDALM

    The U S should have never have been involved in a war in this region, it should have learned the lesson from the disgraceful defeat of the Russians in the 1970’s…..This region of the World have been known from the time of Alexander the great, where he met his demise to be ungovernable and a graveyard for all those who were foolish enough to invade it. After so much loss of human lives, American, Afghanistan, Pakistanis. and others, as well as the loss of trillions of dollars in this longest ever American war, it i about time for the U S to totally withdrew from the region and let people and countries of this region to solve their own problems. short of that there just will more shed of blood, loss of more human lives, and more drain on the American treasury of badly domestically needed money.

    • Noelle

      As usual, American politicians don’t want voters to understand history. This is getting more and more obvious to me now.

    • Sam

      The actual history is that Alexander had no problem in subduing this region. He left behind kingdoms ruled by his Macedonian generals for centuries to come. He met his demise during his retreat from India and not in Afghanistan. Rather than being a graveyard of Empires, Afghanistan was run over repeatedly by the Persians, the Mongols, the Turks, and the Sikhs, among others. The British, ever the nation of shopkeepers, found little value in possessing the impoverished territories beyond what they already had and were, therefore, willing to cut their losses by creating the Durand line. The difference in modern times is that the Soviets had to face a proxy war aided by the Americans and abetted by Pakistan, and now the Americans face an enemy that is armed, trained, and sheltered in Pakistan. Both are/were unwilling to take the war into the actual location of the enemy combatants, and were thus doomed to lose their respective wars.

  • EIDALM

    The warmongers Neocons and their bogus war on terror to advance their hidden agenda, in their 1998 Project For New American Century, which advance regime change in the Middle East and elsewhere starting with their genocidal invasion of Iraq based on lies, is totally responsible for the horrible bloody mess we have in Afghanistan and the Middle East with tens of millions of dead innocent civilians, the destruction of so many countries, the creation of rampant terrorism, the bankruptcy of the U S treasury, and the sad state of affair we have in the whole World today………..Terrorism should have been faced with police matter, not invasion of sovereign countries

    • jakeleone

      I completely agree that our invasion of Iraq was a horrible mistake. Yes, we were not getting along with the Iraqis, since their invasion of Kuwait. But, Iraq had a reasonable level of religious tolerance. And the invasion of Kuwait was all about money and the price of oil. Saddam needed more money, Iraq had a proportionally huge national debt (thanks to war between Iran and Iraq, which we probably encouraged). And the price of oil was low and that was basically Iraq’s main product.

      There were reasons, that if we had remedied them earlier, we might still have a stable Iraq. And no need for an invasion. And quite likely far less motivation for Osama to turn Al Quaeda against the U.S. I think we were talking about 60 billion back then, in Iraqi debts. Maybe 10% fo that amount in funding and restructuring could have prevented any motivation towards invasion on Iraq’s part. And when the price of oil recovered (as it will when recessions end), Iraq would have been in the green for several years.

      The CIA tends to encourage really short-term fixes. The kind that get guys gold stars (maybe it’s tied to bonuses).

      But the long term change that was needed, was precisely what Saddam was encouraging within his country (by tolerating other religions). And we destroyed that with our invasion.

      We need to get it right in the middle east, we need to just encourage states that are religiously plural. And frankly we are not. Syria and Iran, at least tolerate other religions, but we seem to be locked in to criticizing those states. And could well be that the Neocons are doing this because they don’t have a way to get any short-term goal accomplished with those states.

      Those states, Syria and Iran, are going to remain very conservative for a long-long-time. And it is going to burn analyst after analyst at the CIA and NSA, when they realize they can’t really change those states, poor guys. The saddest song is playing on the tiniest violin for them.

      Frankly best thing we can do is give up on states that are at least religiously tolerant, and after laying off for a while try understand them better and show a friendly respect, which we have not (Iran hasn’t either, but Syria has always seemed neutral on the U.S. and European powers).

      Saudi Arabia, seemingly one of best friends, is the most religiously intolerant country. And while we can’t change that, we should never encourage it with military aide. Humanitarian aide, the same aide we would give to any other country (including North Korea at times), we should give, but if there is revolution in Saudi Arabia, and it costs some countries (the U.S. imports very little Saudi oil) a higher price at the pump so what?

      That higher prices, decreases the amount of carbon entering the atmosphere. It encourages the U.S. to develop it’s own energy resources in several ways, many of which are carbon neutral. And it enriches some poorer nations (not always), and what are they going to do with those american dollars? Buy American they will.

      Only corporations will be hurt, Exxon Mobil. And we can’t allow our national goals to be the economic goals of corporations. Our goals have to be what helps other countries develop and fully ascend into the modern world.

    • Vern

      Islam has the tragic flaw that it operates like a tyrannical brainwashing cult. The former rulers of Afghanistan exemplified what happens when this true face of Islam is not hidden. Being in denial about this delays the day when reform will happen and extends the suffering.

      • Mason Gibb

        Christianity operates the same way. I’ve seen dozens of brain-washed Christians protesting medical facilities, and then every once in awhile you get a shooting. Or some sorta death cult.

    • Mason Gibb

      Testify Ede! What about the repeated Israeli incursions into Syria during this conflict. NPR makes it sound like Israel has only interfered after the (alleged) Iranian drone. But Israel has struck targets in Syria several times during this conflict.

      And, it is worth mentioning, at least one Israeli missile reportedly destined for Syria landed in a Lebanese orchard.

      • EIDALM

        Israel have been illegally occupying the Golan Hight Syrian territory since 1973….

        • Mason Gibb

          Yes, you’re correct of course!

  • Noelle

    I wonder since Pakistani nuclear scientist AQ Khan was instrumental in giving North Korea the key to developing nuclear weapons why this administration isn’t stirring up war tensions with Pakistan. Maybe because they aren’t hammering this on Fox News?

    • Vern

      Maybe because now that msnbc and cnn have adopted Fox’s business model of making wild claims and bringing on dishonest highly partisan guests, they’ve served to counterbalance fox’s influence. Either that or trump doesn’t care about the Msm and has been corrupted by military industrial complex lobbyist types.

      • Mason Gibb

        They’re only doing this now?
        Think of how many pharmaceutical commercials are on CNN. How much airtime have they given over the years (or even during the Dem primary campaign) to the viability of a public option for healthcare?

  • Vern

    I suspect the only way to stabilize Afghanistan is to give a large part of it to the Kurds.

    • Noelle

      Turkey would not approve.

      • Vern

        They’re just chicken!

        • Noelle

          ha!

    • Curious

      We’d have to weigh that as a option…..

    • Bill_Woods

      There are roughly zero Kurds in Afghanistan.

  • Curious

    What does your guest think about Obama’s assessment that the war in Afghanistan was the “good war”?

    • marte48

      yes, he was the ONLY ONE who believed the republican lies.

      • Curious

        What are you talking about???

  • Curious

    Mr. Obama was a state senator from Illinois in October 2002 when he famously condemned Iraq as a “dumb war.” But in the same speech he also said, “I don’t oppose all wars.” He was referring to Afghanistan, which he viewed as a just war to hunt down the perpetrators of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

    “I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such tragedy from happening again,” he told the crowd that day in Chicago’s Federal Plaza.

  • EIDALM

    On page 52 ot the Neocons 1996 Project For New American century, they wrote WE NEED A NEW PELE HARBOR….Then here comes 911….

    • Robert Thomas

      Have the Hawai’ian people renamed Pearl Harbor for Pele? This seems culturally sensitive to an uncharacteristic degree.

    • Robert Thomas

      Has the United States Navy renamed Pearl Harbor for Richard Perle? This seems culturally insensitive to an uncharacteristic degree.

      • Mason Gibb

        This is one of EIDALM’s great puns!

        • Robert Thomas

          I understand and my intent is only to be gently playful with Prof Eid. On the whole, however, I’m more charmed by “Pele Harbor” than by “Perle Harbor”.

  • Ben Rawner

    With rising tensions with Iran, strategically speaking, can the US afford to lose their foothold in Afghanistan? even if that country is in a perpetual state of war?

  • marte48

    “If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.” Both the Russians and the Brits tried to control Afghanistan, to no avail.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    I find it encouraging that military leaders are emphasizing the need for political solutions in Afghanistan. To create a basis for successful political integration of this famously multi-tribal country, why not promote and encourage adoption, by the various factions, a unifying set of declared “Highest Civic Ideals.” [Drafted in service at http://www.STARALLIANCE.org.]

  • Robert Thomas

    Many of us glimpsed a clear vision of the future when Mullah Omar dynamited the Buddhas of Bamiyan six months before the September 11 attacks. No good thing was coming soon, from the region. At the same time, Vizini’s Dictum: “Never get involved in a land war in Asia” rang in our ears.

    Has Mr Coll ever seen the 1988 Kevin Reynolds film The Beast?

    When you’re wounded an’ left on Afghanistan’s plains
    An’ the women come out to cut up your remains
    Jus’ roll to your rifle an’ blow out your brains
    An’ go to your God like a soldier.

    Rudyard Kipling
    “The Young British Soldier”
    epigraph for the film

    Actually, hemi-demi historical romance writer James Michener’s 1963 novel Caravans presaged just about every aspect of the U.S. experience in Central Asia over the last forty years.

  • marte48

    I never hear a satisfactory reply to the fact that 15 of the 19 911 bombers were Saudis – not Talibans or Pakistanis.

    • Vern

      911 was planned by the neoconservatives and possibly mossad. Just look at the free fall collapse of WTC building 7 on 911 and tell me how any foreign thug did that. It is an obvious controlled demolition.

  • marte48

    We bomb other people’s countries, and then act surprised when they fight back.

    • Noelle

      We are told that the US is there to help develop them. But it’s really about maintaining the American Empire.

    • Curious

      Obama’s illegal attack on Libya was a disaster.

  • MikeCassady

    The Trump administration appears to reassert USA post-World War II dominance of the postwar consensus about the evolving extra-national economic and political reality. Trump appears to favor a return to a more nationalistic strategy rather than follow the growing trend since the war to move to more international consesus building, looking toward institutionalizing global governance one day. With a $700+ military budget in the face of growing economic activity from nations which have now rebuilt themselves since the war, can the USA continue on the same path without economic consequecnes to the country of the sort that may be fuelling the political rebellion represented by the Trump populist crusade?

  • jakeleone

    A couple of years ago you had a Navy Seal now Professor explain the way to approach an invasion, that will make a lasting change. He stated that you have to completely replace the previous culture.

    What I am saying, is why even evade (which kills many people, almost all innocent, soldiers on our side and the other side are innocent too).

    Why not just educate. Why not just give aide to governments based upon their ability to get on a track that is not unlike the track of our original 13 colonies and our early republic?

    That track includes, enforced religious pluralism and a tendency towards increasing human freedom (going from slave to a non-slave state was the biggest single step in human freedom increase in the United States, switched us from feudal to fully capitalist.)

    If we don’t start doing that, instead of favoring countries for the influence or the resources they have (in other words instead of short-term government and corporate goals) we are going to keep on making the same mistakes, over-and-over-again.

    Look, we had to invade Afghanistan, they attacked us, but the source is the Xenophobia of groups in Pakistan. And Al Queda was allowed to be in Afghanistan because of the Xenophobic sympathies of the people their, in the Taliban government. Xenophobia, built up from centuries of living apart from the rest of the world. Same kind of junk thinking that exists in every Xenophobic ideology, the same ideologies that promote the superiority of a one way of life over all other ways (and in thousands of Xenophobic variations, which is the great irony).

    If only such Xenophobes could realize that they are just another ant colony fighting for turf on a hill.

    And this whole conversation reminds me of such fights. There is an excellent example of such communication, in a Beavis and Butthead episode, where the two discuss who can win in a fight against who.

    Please don’t invite guests on that are simply enhancing/amplifying this horrid degenerate tendency, so often seen in ignorant children and Xenophobes.

  • Sam

    And yet General Musharraf and General Kayani, who are the architects behind the Pakistani support for the Taliban and Bin Laden travel freely in the West and have property there. Pakistani military leaders have moved millions of dollars into the West, and settled themselves and their family there without any reaction from Western governments. Thus who is playing whom? Contrast how the Pakistanis are treated in comparison to the North Koreans or the Iranians or even the Russians.

Host

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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