A marvelously engrossing account of the military operation that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, from associate editor of The Counter Terrorist Pfarrer (Warrior Soul, 2004, etc.).
The author is a former assault commander of SEAL Team Six, which gave him a decided upper hand when collecting material for his story: As a brother in arms, he was able to talk to team members. It is a decidedly different picture than other high-profile accounts, such as the recent New Yorker article. Before he gets to northern Pakistan, however, Pfarrer has a number of other stories to tell. First is a history of the Navy SEALs, with emphasis on Team Six, “the smallest and most elite special operations unit in the world.” He covers their training, equipment and operations they have led in Beirut, Grenada, Libya, Kuwait, Iraq, Somalia and, perhaps the most fleshed-out operational description included here, the rescue of an American sea captain from Somali pirates. Seeking a broader context, Pfarrer delves into the roots of Islamic fundamentalism and produces a pocket biography of bin Laden, which in turn informs his history of al-Qaeda and Ayman al-Zawahiri, who played bin Laden like a puppet to get at his money. “Zawahiri needed capital,” writes the author, “and Osama needed intellectual and religious justification for a global campaign of violence.” Pfarrer points to Zawahiri as the likely source who ratted out bin Laden, and many others, to gain control of the organization’s treasure box. Though the author’s line of thought on al-Qaeda’s access and deployment of weaponry is not always easy to follow, his writing is consistently informed, with a crunchy texture that belies its sub-surface polish.
Richly told in broad, cinematic strokes, this is catnip for readers who enjoy special-ops tales.