Trusted British journalists offer a treasure trove of research about the al-Qaida network, from before 9/11 to the ramifications following Osama bin Laden’s takedown.
Award-winning foreign correspondents and investigative reporters, formerly at the Sunday Times and the Guardian, longtime collaborators Scott-Clark and Levy (The Siege: 68 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel, 2013, etc.) fashion a chronological, massively detailed assessment of al-Qaida’s intimate workings, from its founding in 1988 to bin Laden’s death in May 2011. There are numerous layers to this minute chronicle, including the American government’s “cherry-picked history” of events—as was delineated, for example, in the Hollywood film Zero Dark Thirty (“materially wrong in many ways”). Here, the authors give a true sense of how the painstaking tracking of bin Laden over the years, and especially to his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, led finally to his death. Indeed, the man simply known as the Sheikh was ultimately compromised by his love of family—his many wives and numerous children he lived with burdened his custodians and couriers, who were burned out by having to deal with his growing family and demands—and his final wish to be reunited with his favored, highly educated third wife, Khairiah, who was brought to the Abbottabad compound in deep secrecy in February 2011 to help him draft his broadcasts on the anniversary of 9/11. Bin Laden and company were forced to make numerous dangerous moves since being flushed out of the Tora Bora, Afghanistan, caves by the American invasion in late 2001, and the Bush administration government was strengthening its rendition and torture program under Dr. James Mitchell in the early 2000s, and the Pakistani military was working with the CIA to apprehend “high-value” targets. Meanwhile, the Taliban leadership helped the bin Laden family shelter in Iran and elsewhere. At the beginning of this meticulously detailed account, the authors provide a helpful map and a 14-page “Cast List.”
A tour de force of investigative research.