Peter Bergen blows away the political fog surrounding our war against al-Qaeda. By Christian Caryl The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and and Al-Qaeda by Peter Bergen emember the Battle of Tora Bora? That was the one, back in December 2001, where Osama bin Laden got away. U.S. special forces and CIA paramilitaries, […]

The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda by Peter L. Bergen At nearly a decade and counting, and with tens of thousands of American troops still at war in Afghanistan and Iraq–and with Osama bin Laden still at large–we remain well within the post-9/11 era, almost to the point where we take […]

Thursday, Dec 30, 2010 Another review The Longest War

CNN reporter Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know), one of the foremost Western experts on al-Qaeda, presents a compelling narrative of the history of the battle against al-Qaeda since 9/11. Relying on a variety of sources, including the jihadists and U.S. government documents, interviews with al-Qaeda operatives and senior Washington officials, and his own extensive field experience, the author describes success and failure in the “war on terror.”

(CNN) — The much-touted July 2011 date for the beginning of a withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan, a center piece of the administration’s “AfPak” strategy announced by President Obama in December 2009, now seems unlikely to amount to much.

Thursday, Dec 16, 2010 Holbrooke: Astride the Khyber Pass

The job offer was suitably Holbrookean: I was standing in my kitchen in DuPont Circle about a year and half ago and the cell rang. On the other end an unmistakable voice boomed, “I’m calling from a plane flying from Riyadh to Washington. I want you to work for me. I land at Dulles in four hours. I need your answer by then.” I mumbled something about needing to speak to my wife and my various bosses at CNN and the New America Foundation, and Ambassador Holbrooke quickly hung up. In the end the job offer never panned out, but I felt honored that Holbrooke had even considered it.

Thursday, Dec 16, 2010 The Generals’ Victory

The arrival of a Bob Woodward book is attended with rituals as solemn and predictable as those of the annual Congress of the Communist Party in North Korea—there are the three days of excerpts in The Washington Post; a few days before that the obligatory spoiler piece in The New York Times where an enterprising reporter has obtained a copy of the heavily-embargoed tome; Woodward appearing for the full hour with Larry King; the defensive comments from the institutions that have something to defend—when asked to comment on Obama’s Wars, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell demurred, explaining “We don’t do literary criticism;” the quotable insider disses, the best being General Tommy Franks on the senior Bush Pentagon official Douglas Feith—”the fucking stupidest guy on the face of the earth”; and the telling anecdotes about key players in the narrative, such as the one about the intensely focused General Petraeus electing to stay in Iraq rather than attend the funeral of his father.

Sunday, Dec 12, 2010 Bin Laden’s Lonely Crusade

Exactly 10 years ago this month, just days after the inauguration of George W. Bush as president, Richard Clarke, the top counterterrorism aide in the White House, wrote a now famous memo warning the administration of the challenge posed by al-Qaeda. He “urgently” requested a high-level review of American efforts to deal with Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization. The warning was not heeded—and, even if it had been, there is no way of knowing whether the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented. The attacks came, and in their aftermath, encouraged by political leaders and national-security experts, a particular view of terrorism and of al-Qaeda took hold, and remains entrenched to this day. The idea, simply put, is that Islamist terrorism, spearheaded by al-Qaeda, poses an “existential” threat to America and the West. That sentiment was repeatedly voiced by Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Tony Blair, and many others. We continue to hear it today.

A revelatory, pull-no-punches history of the War on Terror, from before 9/11 to the present day. CNN national security analyst and journalist Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader, 2006, etc.) takes a critical look at all phases of the conflict between the West and al-Qaeda.

Wednesday, Nov 10, 2010 The Drone wars

In late May, some 16 miles down a dirt road from the main town in the isolated tribal region of North Waziristan, a missile from an unmanned Predator drone slammed into a house owned by local tribesmen and killed Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, a founding member of al-Qaeda and its top operational leader in Afghanistan. His wife and several of their children were also killed.

Tuesday, Nov 02, 2010 First review of the Longest War

Bergen (The Osama bin Laden I Know), CNN’s national security analyst, revisits the personality and career of the al-Qaeda leader and his immediate circle, while delving into the conflict between al-Qaeda and associates and the U.S. and its coalition