"Directorate S: The C. I. A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016" by Steve Coll holds Pakistan ISI's Directorate S primarily responsible for America's longest war.
The author does acknowledge other factors such as Washington's policy failures, Kabul government's corruption, divisions and dysfunction, Indian intelligence RAW's role, etc. However, he plays down the significance of these other factors and pins the blame squarely on Pakistan ISI, particularly its Directorate S which the author describes as one of the ISI directorates "devoted to secret operations in support of the Taliban, Kashmiri guerrillas, and other violent Islamic radicals". The book sticks essentially to America's oft-repeated narrative of blaming Pakistan for US failure to win the war after 16 years of fighting.
Vital American Interests in Afghanistan:
Coll narrates top-level discussions during the successive administrations of President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama identified America's objectives/vital interests in the region are as follows:
1. Destroy Al Qaeda in the region
2. Ensure Pakistan's stability to keep nukes out of the hands of terrorists
Notably absent from these goals is the defeat/destruction of the Taliban.
While there was considerable success in achieving the first objective, the actions taken to achieve that success induced instability in Pakistan. It gave rise to Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which launched deadly attacks on the Pakistani state that killed tens of thousands of civilians and security personnel.
Efforts by the United States to negotiate with the Afghan Taliban went nowhere, partly due to strong opposition to such talks by Tajik faction of the Afghan government.
India-Pakistan Great Game in Afghanistan:
Author Steve Coll quotes Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, President Barack Obama's representative for the region, as explaining how critical India-Pakistan relationship is to solving Afghanistan. Holbrooke said, "There are three countries here--Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India--with vastly different stages of political, social, and economic development. They share a common strategic space. As has happened so many times in history, the weak state is the one that sucks in the others. That's the history of Afghanistan and now the Great Game is being played with different players. The India-Pakistan relationship is an absolutely critical driver".
India's Covert War Against Pakistan:
Coll acknowledges Indian intelligence agency RAW's role in Afghanistan saying that "it was not as if R.A.W. had dropped out of covert actions specifically designed to undermine Pakistani stability"..... efforts that run counter to America's vital interest/goal number 2 in the region.
However, the author underplays its importance. He fails to take notice of the mounting evidence that even some Indian analysts and media find hard to ignore. Here are some instances:
1. Bharat Karnad, a professor of national security studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, recently acknowledged India's use of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist group against Pakistan in an Op Ed he wrote for Hindustan Times.
2. Indian journalist Praveen Swami said in a piece published in "Frontline": "Since 2013, India has secretly built up a covert action program against Pakistan."
3. India's former RAW officers, including one ex chief, have blamed Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested by Pakistan in 2016, for getting caught in Pakistan as a "result of unprofessionalism", according to a report in India's "The Quint" owned and operated by a joint venture of Bloomberg News and Quintillion Media. The report that appeared briefly on The Quint website has since been removed, apparently under pressure from the Indian government.
4. A story by Indian journalist Karan Thapar pointed out several flaws in the Indian narrative claiming that Kulbhushan Jadhav, arrested in Pakistan while engaging in India's covert war in Balochistan, was an innocent Indian businessman kidnapped from Chabahar by Pakistani agents. Writing for the Indian Express, Thapar debunked the entire official story from New Delhi.
Former US Defense Secretary Hagel:
Indian journalist claims that India's covert war against Pakistan started in 2013. However, former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said back in 2011 that "India has always used Afghanistan as a second front against Pakistan. India has over the years been financing problems in Pakistan". Secretary Hagel was speaking at Cameron University in Oklahoma.
General David Petraeus's View:
Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London in 2016, he said "I looked very very hard then (as US commander in Afghanistan) and again as CIA director at the nature of the relationship between the various (militant) groups in FATA and Baluchistan and the Pakistan Army and the ISI and I was never convinced of what certain journalists have alleged (about ISI support of militant groups in FATA).... I have talked to them (journalists) asked them what their sources are and I have not been able to come to grips with that based on what I know from these different positions (as US commander and CIA director)".
Gen Petraeus did acknowledge that "there's communication between the ISI and various militant groups in FATA and Balochistan (Haqqanis, Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, etc) but some of it you'd do anyway as an intelligence service." He added that "there may be some degree of accommodation that is forced on them (Pakistanis) because of the limits of their (Pakistan's) forces."
Former CIA Officer Michael Scheuer's View of ISI:
To put unrelenting western and India media and analysts' attacks on the ISI in perspective, let's read some excerpts from an interview of ex CIA officer and chief Bin Laden hunter Michael Scheuer on ISI, and watch the following video:
1. ISI is like all other intelligence services--like the Australian service or the American service.
2. ISI works for the interest of their country, not to help other countries.
3. The idea that ISI is a rogue organization is very popular--and even the Pakistanis promote it---but having worked with ISI for the better part of 20 years, I know the ISI is very disciplined and very able intelligence agency.
4. Pakistanis can not leave the area (AfPak) when we (Americans) do. They have to try and stabilize Afghanistan with a favorable Islamic government so they can move their 100,000 troops from their western border to the eastern border with India which---whether we like it or not, they see as a bigger threat.
5. We (US) have created the mess in South Asia and the Pakistanis have to sort it out. Our (US) problems in Afghanistan are of our own making.
6. Al Qaeda has grown from just one platform (Afghanistan in 2001) to six platforms now.
"Directorate S: The C. I. A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, 2001-2016" by Steve Coll holds Pakistan ISI's Directorate S primarily responsible for America's longest war. The author does acknowledge other factors such as Washington's policy failures, Kabul government's corruption, divisions and dysfunction, Indian intelligence RAW's role, etc. However, he plays down the significance of these other factors and pins the blame squarely on Pakistan ISI, particularly its Directorate S. Coll downplays all evidence pointing to India's covert war being waged against Pakistan from the Afghan soil. It is this war that is destabilizing both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ignoring it will delay any resolution to the Afghan problem.
Here's a video of ex CIA Officer Michael Scheuer talking about ISI: