About this title:
The gripping account of the decade-long hunt for the world's most wanted man.
About the Author:
It was only a week before 9/11 that Peter Bergen turned in the manuscript of Holy War, Inc., the story of Osama bin Laden--whom Bergen had once interviewed in a mud hut in Afghanistan--and his declaration of war on America. The book became a New York Times bestseller and the essential portrait of the most formidable terrorist enterprise of our time. Now, in Manhunt, Bergen picks up the thread with this taut yet panoramic account of the pursuit and killing of bin Laden.
Here are riveting new details of bin Laden’s flight after the crushing defeat of the Taliban to Tora Bora, where American forces came startlingly close to capturing him, and of the fugitive leader’s attempts to find a secure hiding place. As the only journalist to gain access to bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound before the Pakistani government demolished it, Bergen paints a vivid picture of bin Laden’s grim, Spartan life in hiding and his struggle to maintain control of al-Qaeda even as American drones systematically picked off his key lieutenants.
Half a world away, CIA analysts haunted by the intelligence failures that led to 9/11 and the WMD fiasco pored over the tiniest of clues before homing in on the man they called "the Kuwaiti"--who led them to a peculiar building with twelve-foot-high walls and security cameras less than a mile from a Pakistani military academy. This was the courier who would unwittingly steer them to bin Laden, now a prisoner of his own making but still plotting to devastate the United States.
Bergen takes us inside the Situation Room, where President Obama considers the COAs (courses of action) presented by his war council and receives conflicting advice from his top advisors before deciding to risk the raid that would change history--and then inside the Joint Special Operations Command, whose "secret warriors," the SEALs, would execute Operation Neptune Spear. From the moment two Black Hawks take off from Afghanistan until bin Laden utters his last words, Manhunt reads like a thriller.
Based on exhaustive research and unprecedented access to White House officials, CIA analysts, Pakistani intelligence, and the military, this is the definitive account of ten years in pursuit of bin Laden and of the twilight of al-Qaeda.
PETER BERGEN is the author of three previous books about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, two of which were New York Times bestsellers. He is CNN's national security analyst and a director of the New America Foundation. Bergen has held teaching positions at Harvard and at Johns Hopkins University and is a graduate of Oxford. He lives in Washington, DC with his wife, documentary producer Tresha Mabile, and their son.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
9/11 and After
Bin Laden was fixated on the idea that the United States was weak. In the years leading up to 9/11, he often spoke of its weakness to his followers, citing such examples as the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in the 1970s, and from Somalia two decades later, following the Black Hawk Down incident, in which eighteen U.S. servicemen were killed. Bin Laden enjoyed recounting how al-Qaeda had slipped fighters into Somalia in 1993 to help train the Somali clans battling American forces, who were there as part of a UN mission to feed starving Somalis. “Our boys were shocked by the low morale of the American soldier, and they realized that the American soldier was just a paper tiger,” bin Laden exulted. His disciples eagerly agreed with the man they loved like a father.
Bin Laden assured his men that the Americans “love life like we love death” and would be too scared to put boots on the ground in Afghanistan. Look at what a drubbing bin Laden and his men had inflicted on the Soviets in Afghanistan! And America was every bit as feeble as the former Soviet Union, bin Laden told his nodding acolytes. Those in his inner circle who had any niggling doubt about this analysis largely kept it to themselves.
As plans for the 9/11 attacks took a more definite shape, some of al-Qaeda’s senior officials expressed concern that the coming attacks might anger the Taliban leader Mullah Omar, to whom bin Laden had, at least notionally, sworn an oath of allegiance. During the five years that bin Laden had been the Taliban’s honored guest, Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders had made it clear that al-Qaeda could not use Afghanistan to conduct a freelance war against America. Bin Laden thought he could help inoculate himself against any anger caused by the attacks on the United States by offering the Taliban a highly desirable head on a platter: that of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the storied leader of what remained of the anti-Taliban resistance in Afghanistan. For the Massoud hit, bin Laden recruited two Tunisian Belgian al-Qaeda assassins, who disguised themselves as television journalists keen to interview the legendary guerrilla leader.
During the summer of 2001, while al-Qaeda groomed the Massoud assassins, the leaders of the group were putting the finishing touches on their plans for the spectacular attacks on America’s East Coast. Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a key plotter based in Hamburg, sent a message to bin Laden on Thursday, September 6, saying that the attacks on Washington and New York would take place the following Tuesday. And on September 9, bin Laden heard the welcome news that his assassins had mortally wounded Massoud, for whom he had long harbored contempt. Now the stage was set for what bin Laden believed would be his greatest triumph: a spectacular strike on the country that was Islam’s greatest enemy because it propped up the godless dictatorships and monarchies of the Middle East and, of course, Israel. With one tremendous blow against America, bin Laden would get the United States to pull out of the Middle East, and then Israel would fall, as would the Arab autocracies, to be replaced by Taliban-style regimes. This was bin Laden’s fervent hope and belief.
From the day that President George W. Bush took office, January 20, 2001, every morning, six days a week, CIA official Michael Morell briefed the president about what the intelligence community believed to be the most pressing national security issues. Reed-thin and in his early forties, Morell spoke in terse, cogent paragraphs. On August 6, eight months after Bush was inaugurated, Morell met with the president at his vacation home in Texas to tell him of the CIA’s assessment that bin Laden was determined to strike inside the United States. This briefing was heavily colored by the fact that Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian on the fringes of al-Qaeda, had recently pled guilty to charges that he planned to detonate a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport in mid-December 1999. The August 6 briefing noted that the FBI had come across information indicating “preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks.” After the briefing, Bush continued to enjoy the longest presidential vacation in three decades.
On the morning of September 11, 2001, in Sarasota, Florida, Morell gave the President’s Daily Brief as usual. There was nothing memorable in it. Together with political advisor Karl Rove and press secretary Ari Fleischer, Morell got into the president’s motorcade to head to the local elementary school where Bush planned to meet with some students. During the ride over, Fleischer asked Morell if he had heard anything about a plane hitting the World Trade Center. Morell said he hadn’t, but would check it out with the CIA Ops Center. Officials at the Ops Center confirmed the news and quickly demolished a widely held perception: it wasn’t a small plane that had wandered off course; it was a large commercial jet.
At the elementary school, where Bush was reading a story about a pet goat to a group of second-graders, the news came on TV that a second jet had hit the Trade Center. Bush was hustled out of the school to head to Air Force One, which took off for Barksdale Air Force Base near Shreveport, Louisiana. Fleischer was keeping careful notes that day, and the first time he recorded bin Laden’s name was at 10:41 a.m., when Chief of Staff Andy Card said to Bush on Air Force One, “It smells like Osama bin Laden to me.” By then, both towers of the Trade Center had collapsed and one of the hijacked planes had plowed into the Pentagon. Bush’s blood was boiling, and he vowed to himself, “We are going to find out who did this, and kick their ass.”
That same morning, bin Laden told Ali al-Bahlul, a bodyguard who doubled as his media maven, that it was “very important to see the news today.” Bahlul was eager to comply with his boss’s wishes; bin Laden ruled al-Qaeda just as he lorded over his own household, as an unquestioned absolute monarch. On this day, al-Qaeda’s leader was, as always, surrounded by his most trustworthy bodyguards, mostly Yemenis and Saudis. Like other members of al-Qaeda, the bodyguards had sworn a religious oath of personal obedience to bin Laden, rather than to his militant organization. (Similarly, those who joined the Nazi party swore an oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler, rather than to Nazism.)
Bin Laden had founded al-Qaeda in 1988, and since then he had consolidated more and more power as the unquestioned, absolute leader of the group. The conventional view is that Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian doctor and al-Qaeda’s longtime second in command, was bin Laden’s “brain.” But in making the most important strategic shift in al-Qaeda’s history--identifying the United States as its key enemy, rather than Middle Eastern regimes--bin Laden brushed aside Zawahiri’s obsessive focus on overthrowing the Egyptian government. Bin Laden also kept Zawahiri in the dark for years about al-Qaeda’s most important operation--the planning for the 9/11 attacks--apprising his deputy only during the summer of 2001.
To his followers bin Laden was truly a hero, someone who they knew had given up a life of luxury as the son of a Saudi billionaire. Instead, he was living a life of danger and poverty in the service of holy war, and in person he was both disarmingly modest and deeply devout. Members of al-Qaeda modeled themselves on the man they called “the Sheikh,” hanging on his every pronouncement, and when they addressed him, they asked his permission to speak. His followers loved him. Abu Jandal, a Yemeni who was one of his bodyguards, described his first meeting with bin Laden in 1997 as “beautiful.” Another of bin Laden’s bodyguards characterized his boss as “a very charismatic person who could persuade people simply by his way of talking. One could say that he ‘seduced’ many young men.”
So, on the morning of September 11, bin Laden’s crew of bodyguards eagerly set out with the man they regarded as their “father,” leaving his main base near the southern city of Kandahar for the mountainous region of Khost, in eastern Afghanistan. Bahlul rigged up a TV satellite receiver in a minibus that was part of bin Laden’s caravan of vehicles, but when they reached Khost, he found it hard to get a television signal, so bin Laden tuned his radio to the BBC’s Arabic service.
Bin Laden told his followers, “If he [the newsreader] says: ‘We have just received this . . .’ it means the brothers have struck.” At about 5:30 in the evening local time, the BBC announcer said, “I have just received this news. Reports from the United States say that an airliner was destroyed upon crashing into the World Trade Center in New York.” Bin Laden told his men to “be patient.” Soon came the news of a second jet flying into the South Tower of the Trade Center. Bin Laden’s bodyguards exploded with joy; their leader truly was conducting a great cosmic war against the infidels!
About eight hundred miles to the south, in the heaving Pakistani megacity of Karachi, some of bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants had also gathered to watch television coverage of the attacks. They were Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the portly commander of the 9/11 operation; Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an intensely religious Yemeni who was a key coordinator of the attacks; and Mustafa al-Hawsawi, the Saudi paymaster who had transferred tens of thousands of dollars to the hijackers living in the States for their flight lessons and living expenses.
Also watching TV with the three architects of 9/11 were some other al-Qaeda “brothers.” As the television showed the hijacked planes flying into the Trade Center, the brothers started weeping with joy, prostrating themselves, and shouting “God is great!” Bin al-Shibh admonis...
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