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The Rise of al Qaeda: Conversation with Steve Coll, Associate Editor, The Washington Post; March 15, 2005 by Harry Kreisler

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series, and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Welcome to a Conversation With History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our guest today is Steve Coll, who is an associate editor of the Washington Post, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for his investigative reporting on the SEC, and the author of Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001. His book has just won the Lionel Gelber Award as the best book on U.S. foreign policy in the year cover

Note: Ghost Wars has subsequently won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction.

  1. Background ... "both sides of the brain" at home ... undergraduate double major ... journalism ... Washington Post
  2. Investigative Journalism ... walk away from the crowd ... the disenfranchised and the hard targets ... using public records ... principles for culling information ... interviewing ... managing the Post
  3. The Press and Iraq ... forcing government accountability ... withstanding public hostility ... why we were wrong about WMD ... misunderstanding Iraqi nationalism
  4. Afghanistan and Ghost Wars ... journalists' first draft of history ... the second round of questions ... reporting on Afghan anti-Soviet resistance and CIA connections ... September 11 ... 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ... Brzezinski's plan ... continuity of policy across administrations ... U.S. reluctance to engage long-term
  5. Failure of U.S.'s Pakistan Policy ... allowing Pakistan to take the lead ... Pakistani preoccupation with India over Kashmir ... Pakistan's use of al Qaeda ... new paradigm of nongovernmental-sponsored terrorism
  6. Misguided "Alliance of Believers" Policy ... opposing communism ... Casey's personal and tactical belief ... Israel and Hamas vs. PLO ... Saudi fundamentalism and money
  7. Further Failures of U.S. Policy in Afghanistan ... failure to support Afghanistan's potentially democratic Massoud ... Hekmatiar and the Pakistani Intelligence Service ... critical turning points ... U.S. fear of risk ... failure to challenge the Taliban diplomatically
  8. Conclusion ... advice to students


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