# Highly Recommended《Bran-New + The Improbable True Story Of America's First War In Afghanistan》Robert L. Grenier - 88 DAYS TO KANDAHAR : A CIA DIARY (Former CIA Station Chief, Islamabad + Former Director CIA Counter-Terrorism Center)
This New York Times & Washington Post bestseller in paperback edition is a bran-new book and nicely wrapped with protective book-wrapper. The original new book is sold at usual price RM92.38. Now here Only at RM26. The “first” Afghan War, a CIA war in response to 9/11, was directed by the CIA Station Chief in Islamabad. It put Hamid Karzai in power in 88 days. “If you want an insider’s account of the first American-Afghan War, you can’t do better than this…Important reading to understand where we are today” ( Library Journal). From his preparation of the original, post-9/11 war plan, approved by President Bush, through to “final” fleeting victory, Robert Grenier relates the tale of the “southern campaign,” which drove al-Qa’ida and the Taliban from Kandahar, its capital, in an astonishing eighty-eight days. “With his ringside seat as the senior agency official stationed closest to Afghanistan, Grenier is able to describe meeting by meeting, sometimes phone call after phone call, how events unfolded” ( The New York Times). In his gripping account, we meet: General Tommy Franks, who bridles at CIA control of “his” war; General “Jafar Amin,” a gruff Pakistani intelligence officer who saves Grenier from committing career suicide; Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s brilliant ambassador to the US, who tries to warn her government of the al-Qa’ida threat; and Hamid Karzai, the puzzling anti-Taliban insurgent, a man with elements of greatness, petulance, and moods. With suspense and insight, Grenier details his very personal struggles and triumphs. 88 Days to Kandahar is “an action-packed tale, rich in implication, of the post-9/11 race to unseat the Taliban and rout al-Qaida in Afghanistan” ( Kirkus Reviews). Robert Grenier, former Chief of Islamabad Station and Director of CTC (Counterterrorism Center) wrote of his experience in the critical days of US/CIA involvement in Afghanistan post 9/11. Ironically one might consider this a sequel to "Charlie Wilson's War" about CIA's effort to support the mujahadin struggle against the Soviet invaders. In both cases, the stories start well but end with disaster just around the horizon. Grenier was not in Afghanistan during the fighting, but he was the proponent of the initial strategy for pursuing the conflict and knew the inside story by virtue of his contacts in Islamabad including Pakistani intelligence. Because he was absent from the battlefield this is not the book to read for a military account, but it clearly shows the bureaucratic struggles. Rather than al Qaida and the Taliban as enemies, it turns out we are our major enemies. These months were fraught, according to Grenier, with two battles: one between headquarters and the field and the other between CTC and the area divisions. Add to that major issues with DoD aka Rumsfeld and you have a mess. When the subject turns to Iraq, Grenier believes regime change was necessary even though there wasn't WMD. He admits policies were totally screwed up, but says it was necessary. 1. The US records on interventions usually end up as debacles, e.g., Viet Nam, Phillippines, Cuba, Iran before the shah, Afghanistan against the Soviet. So why would this time be any different?. 2. Many agree Saddam was a bad dude, but we can't depose every bad dude in the world especially when there is scant chance it will end well. Personally, it was more worried by the threats posed by North Korea and Russia. The last few chapters Grenier gives his perspective on the kerfuffle about detainees "enhanced interrogation." His was an interesting perspective, but I will leave it to you to read for yourself. A final comment. In many ways it seemed this book was written for insiders to the policy or intelligence process. I am skeptical that readers in the hinterlands will capture the full nuances intended by Grenier. All in all, this book is recommended for anyone interested in national security issues. -------------------------------------------------- The New York Times Review : As America’s longest war draws to a close, journalists and diplomats, spooks and soldiers keep turning out books attempting to explain what was lost and won over the last 14 years in Afghanistan. While none so far have synthesized the disparate worlds of American civilian policy, military action and Afghan realities, the latest entry, “88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary,” by Robert L. Grenier, adds another on-the-ground view of how the early events actually unfolded. Grenier, who retired in 2006 after 27 years with the C.I.A., was the station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, from 1999 to 2002, with practical responsibility for Taliban-dominated areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan during the crucial early months of the war. The book’s title refers to the period between Sept. 11 and Dec. 7, when an anti-Taliban tribal leader named Hamid Karzai made a perilous return to Afghanistan to rally Pashtun opposition to the Taliban, which culminated in their surrender. Grenier’s book is at least the fourth published memoir of a former C.I.A. officer containing long sections on the Afghan war, and what it chiefly offers are details of the role of both the C.I.A. and the Pakistanis in the Pashtun areas of Afghanistan in the months after 9/11. With his ringside seat as the senior agency official stationed closest to Afghanistan, Grenier is able to describe meeting by meeting, sometimes phone call after phone call, how events unfolded. Hampering the account, however, is a sometimes brash and even self-congratulatory tone that raises questions about his reliability as a narrator. He begins with a call from the director of central intelligence, George Tenet, on Sept. 23, 2001, asking him which targets the Americans should bomb first. Grenier says he wrote an eight-page cable setting out how to prosecute the initial stages of the war, which was approved by President Bush. “I regard that cable as the best three hours of work I ever did in a 27-year career. The mere fact that a C.I.A. field officer was asked to write it, to say nothing of the fact that it was adopted as policy, is extraordinary,” he says. But the cable is not reprinted here, and since much of Grenier’s story is recounted through the device of “reconstructed dialogue,” and no alternate views are presented, it is hard to determine the veracity of his claims. That said, Grenier was clearly a key player, and he gives a dramatic description of the nail-biting hours in October and early November 2001, when the agency tracked Karzai’s progress in the company of anti-Taliban fighters as the enemy was closing in. Grenier says he realized the situation was dire when Karzai “ominously . . . added another item to his long wish list: a small portable diesel generator and fuel, so that he could recharge his phone batteries while fleeing from the Taliban.” The agency, which decided Karzai had the best chance of any tribal figure of fomenting an internal rebellion against the Taliban, saved his life and those of his senior aides in the midst of the fight by spiriting them from Afghanistan to Pakistan. The C.I.A. later reinserted Karzai into Afghanistan so that he could make his way to Kandahar and claim leadership of the country. While this has been reported elsewhere, it was Grenier who was in charge of the operation, so having his version on the record is especially valuable. (Also worth reading is “A Man and a Motorcycle,” by Bette Dam, a Dutch journalist, who interviewed Karzai and painstakingly tracked down most of the Afghans who were with him for their take on the same events.) In Grenier’s telling, he and a small group of paramilitary agents, along with his deputy, were the main actors. With little self-awareness, he describes how some of the worst features of America’s legacy in Afghanistan took root, not least of them the practice of procuring local assistance from tribal leaders through large cash payments, which set a pattern for corrupt, money-for-loyalty dealings in the future. Grenier also puts on the record the C.I.A.’s habit of turning a blind eye to despotic warlords who were extorting payments from ordinary citizens. And so at one point he refers to the “good works” being done by a United States-backed warlord, who he admits was “imposing tolls on commercial truck traffic.” What’s more, he fails to mention that the man has been accused of flagrant corruption by American officials in Afghanistan as well as by local Afghan politicians. For Grenier, what was important was that the warlord was on America’s side in going after Qaeda fighters. As the United States later learned, the winners from these corrupt practices were the Taliban, who successfully capitalized on popular antagonism toward such behavior. By offering services like courts and law enforcement that functioned without bribes, they began to rehabilitate their reputation and regain influence in large parts of the country. Those looking for insight into Pakistan’s willingness to give the Taliban a safe haven and for America to tolerate it will find Grenier’s account illuminating in its detailed description of the many pressures that country faces from its own extremists, as well as its sense of existential threat from India. Grenier emphasizes how much help the Americans got from the Pakistanis, including the right to use their bases and assistance from their intelligence agency. Still, such insights must be balanced against Grenier’s self-satisfied tone, especially in the wake of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on torture and detentions carried out by the C.I.A. It is clear from Grenier’s account that the agency was so confident in its early approach to Afghanistan that for some time it did not re-examine its operational premises. Grenier seems to conclude that whatever C.I.A. agents did — whether backing bad actors or using torture or wrongfully imprisoning detainees — was warranted. In defending, for example, the arrest and torture of one of the more notorious Qaeda members, Abu Zubaydah, who was captured on Grenier’s watch, sent to a C.I.A. “black” prison in Thailand and waterboarded at least 83 times (according to an internal Justice Department memorandum), Grenier provides this sweeping justification: “In any individual case, the lives of hundreds or thousands of innocent people might be at stake.” But, crucially, he offers no evidence to substantiate that torture — which he refers to as “enhanced interrogation techniques” — yielded lifesaving information. Grenier says that once Abu Zubaydah was caught, he was not involved in his interrogation. And he boasts of responsibility for shipping to Guantánamo Bay much of that prison’s population in 2002, which eventually numbered in the hundreds. He never reveals any doubts about whether those who were bundled off to Guantánamo merited imprisonment. We now know that a number of detainees posed no threat and were released. Nor does he consider what else might be at stake in endorsing torture or secret prisons — like the tarnishing of America’s reputation as an upholder of human rights. Grenier’s most thoughtful analysis of what went wrong in Afghanistan is contained in the book’s last 60 pages, which recount the years after he left his Pakistan post and became, among other things, the head of the agency’s prestigious counterterrorism center. Here he drops his self-justifying tone and becomes more reflective, perhaps in part because he is looking at government policy as a whole. “Our current abandonment of Afghanistan is the product of a . . . colossal overreach, from 2005 onwards,” he writes. “In the process we overwhelmed a primitive country, with a largely illiterate population, a tiny agrarian economy, a tribal social structure and nascent national institutions. We triggered massive corruption through our profligacy; convinced a substantial number of Afghans that we were, in fact, occupiers and facilitated the resurgence of the Taliban.” This is a bleak assessment not least because it comes from someone who was so intent on making the United States Afghan project a success that would endure far beyond his days in the field. ---------------------------------------------- About the Author Robert L. Grenier had a much decorated, twenty-seven-year career in the CIA’s clandestine service. A renowned Middle East expert, he has been deputy national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia. He organized the CIA’s Counter-Proliferation Division and headed the CIA’s basic training facility, “The Farm.” From 1999 to 2002, he was CIA station chief in Islamabad. Subsequently, he was director of the CIA’s CounTerterrorism Center, responsible for all CIA counterterrorism operations around the globe. Currently, Grenier is chairman of ERG Partners, a consulting firm to businesses in the intelligence and security sector. Visit Robert-Grenier.com.
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