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Kill or Capture: How a Special Operations Task Force Took Down a Notorious al Qaeda Terrorist Hardcover – February 1, 2011

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A military interrogator recounts his work hunting terrorists in Iraq.

Air Force veteran Alexander ( How to Break a Terrorist , 2008) chronicles how his interrogation task force helped the U.S. Army track down a Syrian terrorist known as Zafar. Believed to be responsible for thousands of deaths, Zafar was the leader of al-Qaeda in northern Iraq. The author, using his interrogative skills and knowledge of the Iraqi culture, was tasked to find him. The search followed an invariable routine: Alexander, his teammate Mike, their two interpreters and a contingent of soldiers would ride in an armed personnel carrier through Kirkuk, where Zafar was known to operate. Arriving at a house, the interrogators would wait while the soldiers secured the premises and inhabitants. Then they would enter and begin asking questions. Usually, the author and Mike would work separately, giving them a chance to test their information. The person they were most interested in might not bend, but a wife, a brother or other family member might. Many of their techniques drew on lessons learned from police work in the United States, using observation and street-smart psychology to get past the surface of the subject's answers. Alexander is especially proud that he and his team never resorted to torture ("I strongly oppose the use of torture or abuse as interrogation methods for both pragmatic and moral reasons"). During the course of his many investigations, readers will get a sense of life on an Army base in hostile territory, a situation that alternates between boredom and frantic action. Readers will also come to respect Alexander and his colleagues, who lived by their wits in a treacherous environment while refusing to bend the rules to gain a momentary edge on their adversaries, and for the Iraqi people, who are doing their best to survive and make a new life after the war.

A gripping story that provides insight into a much-misunderstood but crucial job." --Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

MATTHEW ALEXANDER is an eighteen-year veteran of the Air Force and Air Force Reserves. A four-time combat veteran of Bosnia, Kosovo, and Iraq, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements in Iraq. He is the author of How to Break a Terrorist.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312656874
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312656874
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #663,007 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Matthew Alexander (a pseudonym) has spent over eighteen years in the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Reserves. He personally conducted more than 300 interrogations in Iraq and supervised more than 1,000. Alexander was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his achievements in Iraq, including leading the team of interrogators that located Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was subsequently killed in an airstrike. Alexander has conducted missions in over thirty countries, has two advanced degrees, and speaks three languages. He has published Op-Eds in the New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times. His article, Martyrdom, Interrupted, was on the cover of the Mar/Apr 2010 issue of The National Interest. He has appeared over fifty times on television including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The CBS Evening News, ABC's Nightline, Fox News, and MSNBC News.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Kangman1 on February 13, 2011
Format: Hardcover
"Kill or Capture" is a wonderful follow up to the author's first book, "How to Break a Terrorist". Both are extremely compelling and shed much needed light onto an otherwise overlooked facet of war...interrogation. I personally feel that the media and entertainment industry, when dealing with the subject of war tend to focus almost solely on the battle, the gun fights, the physicality, but neglect to address one of the military's best weapons...the interrogators. This is a great narrative of real life missions and interrogations conducted by the author, Matthew Alexander, who has the ability to put the reader into the passenger seat of the armored vehicle that is cruising down a dirt road, avoiding IED's and insurgents, to drop the team off to conduct a raid of a possible terrorist's safe house. You get a great sense of the author's compassion for the native people of Iraq, and how he has operated by treating fellow U.S. soldiers and detainees alike, with respect.

I definitely recommend this book to all! You will most likely be exposed to a completely different side of the wars that we are currently fighting and how important interrogators are to the success of our military and country.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Tom's Reviews TOP 1000 REVIEWERAUTHOR on August 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is interesting from the perspective of the military interrogators in Iraq. This is not, however, a book about kill/capture operations in the sense that it discusses those specific types of operations. Rather, it covers the "after" of those stories - the interrogations of those "snatched" by military special ops units (possibly JSOC's teams, though these are not identified in the book). In sum, this is the lengthy story of an interrogator's search for one wanted terrorist, and the many interrogations that led up to it. The author has another book by a different title; however, these are essentially the same story. If you are interested in the inner workings of targeting killing or capture operations and the teams that conduct those ops, this book and the other one probably won't be of much interest. If, however, you are interested in how military interrogators do their jobs in the field, this is a good read. The author is not a door-kicker, as you may assume from the title, but rather an interrogator, and it is limited to this scope.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Piano Student on February 9, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Here's a book with good news about our ten year battle against terrorists. And good news about some of our men and women fighting that battle. The author writes a simple first person account of his interrogations in Iraq that lead to the capture of an Al Qaeda leader. The book reads like an entire season of Law and Order only far, far more compelling. But unlike Law and Order, not one shot is fired in the book's 275 pages. Instead you read how the author gets into the heads of his detainees moments after they are captured. Brains, not bullets. Trust, not torture.

The good news is that we can fight jihadists and still be true to American values, and that there are American men and women doing just that, and winning.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Norman H. Gaffin on March 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Matthew Alexander follows the very effective practice of timely, "on the ground system" of interigation. He
has the understanding of the philosophy, customs & values of the people he is dealing with. He recognises that even the most hardened Taliban has deep love for wife & family. He understands thier sense of Honor & uses all of these through a competent, cooperative interpretor to track the path to his prey. It is strong counterpoint to torture of people, several years after capture. Torture provides deep satisfaction to many (even in "high" places), that has nothing to do with obtaining timely, useful inteligence.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Kill or Capture" begins where "How to Break a Terrorist" left off: largely thanks to Matt Alexander and his team of interrogators, Musab Abu Zarqawi (the most wanted man of coalition forces in Iraq) is dead. The terrorist leader's organization, "al Qaeda in Iraq," has been forced out of Baghdad and Al Anbar governorates and is regrouping in northern Iraq. Alexander requests to leave the main detention facility of General Stanley McChrystal's Special Mission Unit and head north as part of a mobile interrogation team (and larger raid team) in northern Iraq. His request is granted.

What follows is a suspenseful memoir told in a clear, clipped manner that would make Papa Hemmingway proud. Combat veterans will recognize as authentic Alexander's simple, emotive descriptions of combat operations. Yes, like a rollercoaster, the story's ultimate destination is known. (The raid team's main terrorist quarry, the shadowy "Zafar," doesn't stand a chance.) But knowing this destination won't make the ride any less thrilling.

Of the scores of books that have been published about the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, Alexander's twin memoirs must rank among the most important. First "How to Break a Terrorist" and now, "Kill or Capture," are unique in that they are not only gripping, page-turning stories, but they are also compelling, insider accounts of what nearly all professional interrogators know but a few tragically forgot during the first couple years of these conflicts: torture doesn't work, or at least, it doesn't work nearly as well as rapport-based interrogation approaches that are based on cultural awareness and cunning rather than cruelty.
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