Steve Coll’s Ghost Wars Wins the Council’s 2005 Arthur Ross Book Award

May 12, 2005 3:04 pm (EST)

News Releases

May 12, 2005— Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden, From the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (The Penguin Press), by Steve Coll, associate editor of the Washington Post, has won the Council’s fourth annual Arthur Ross Book Award for the best book published in the past two years on international affairs.

More From Our Experts

The author will receive $25,000 and be honored at the Council on Foreign Relations this June.

More on:


Terrorism and Counterterrorism

United States

The award was given to Coll for his news-breaking account of the CIA’s involvement in the covert Afghan wars that fueled Islamic militancy and the rise of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda. "Steve Coll wins first prize for his brilliantly told story of how the seeds of the September 11 attacks were sown during twenty five years of struggle in Afghanistan," said Jury Chairman and Foreign Affairs Editor James F. Hoge. "Coll reveals the covert activities of the CIA and other intelligence agencies that provided cash, weapons, and training to warring Afghan factions, while funding propaganda and manipulating the country’s politics. In the midst of the factional struggles, the battle against Soviet troops and external interventions, bin Laden constructed his global terrorist operation. Coll firmly grounds this important inside story on extensive research and arduous reporting."

The silver medal and a prize of $10,000 has been awarded to defense analyst Stephen Biddle for Military Power: Explaining Victory and Defeat in Modern Battle (Princeton University Press), a powerful analysis of military power that makes a persuasive case on how doctrine, tactics, and force employment influence combat results.

The jury also awarded an honorable mention and $5,000 to writer James Mann for Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet (Viking Books), an insightful 35-year historical portrait of Bush’s inner circle of advisers that sheds light on the decisions made following September 11.

More From Our Experts

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Arthur Ross Book Award is the most significant award for a book on international affairs. It was endowed by Arthur Ross in 2001 to honor non-fiction works, in English or translation, that merit special attention for: bringing forth new information that changes our understanding of events or problems; developing analytical approaches that allow new and different insights into critical issues; or providing new ideas that help resolve foreign policy problems.

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and the foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.

More on:


Terrorism and Counterterrorism

United States

2005 JURY

Rose Gottemoeller
Senior Associate
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Stanley Hoffmann
Paul & Catherine Buttenwieser University Professor
Harvard University

James F. Hoge, Jr. (Chairman)
Peter G. Peterson Chair & Editor
Foreign Affairs

Robert W. Kagan
Senior Associate
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Miles Kahler
Rohr Prof. of Pacific International Relations
University of California, San Diego

Michael A. McFaul
Peter and Helen Bing Senior Fellow
Hoover Institution in Washington

Arthur Ross*
Vice Chairman
United Nations Association of the U.S.A.

Stephen M. Walt
Academic Dean and Belfer Professor of International Affairs
Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University


Top Stories on CFR

Middle East and North Africa

If Westerners are shocked at political developments in Tunisia, it’s because they described it as a straightforward success for too long. 

Southeast Asia


The ongoing pandemic and global climate-related disasters demonstrate the inadequacy of efforts to address the problematic aspects of globalization.