88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary

In This Review

88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary
By Robert L. Grenier
Simon & Schuster, 2015
464 pp. $28.00

Have any of the CIA operatives who worked in Afghanistan and Pakistan in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks not yet written a memoir? Grenier’s book is the most recent addition to the genre and one of the more valuable ones. As the CIA station chief in Islamabad during that period, Grenier was closely involved in U.S. efforts to hunt down Osama bin Laden, defeat the Taliban, and set up a viable state in Afghanistan. His book illuminates the intricacy of the area’s politics and provides some interesting characterizations of players on both sides of the porous Afghan-Pakistani border, including the Afghan leader Hamid Karzai. He conveys the frustrations of intelligence work, in which nobody ever quite tells the truth or is quite sure about the meaning of success, and also the exasperation that intelligence officers feel when their governments oversimplify complex situations or lose interest whenever a new issue grabs their attention. The last section of the book offers a mournful commentary on how badly things went during the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as the twists and turns of political sentiment in Washington stymied the development of durable policies.

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