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The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda Hardcover – January 11, 2011

3.6 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, January 2011: 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 its conditions for granted. Many of the aspects of the ongoing, often indirect battles between America and al-Qaeda have been well covered, but there hasn't until now been a full overview of the conflict, and few are more qualified to write it than Peter Bergen, the print and television journalist who, as a CNN producer, arranged bin Laden's first interview with the Western press in 1997. He has been on the story ever since, as the author of Holy War, Inc., and The Osama bin Laden I Know, but in The Longest War he synthesizes his knowledge for the first time into an insightful portrait of both sides in this asymmetrical struggle between superpower and shadowy scourge. Readers of reporters like Lawrence Wright, Thomas Ricks, and Bob Woodward will be familiar with much of the story, especially on the American side, but Bergen's rare understanding of bin Laden's world--often based on personal interviews with present and former jihadists--along with his sharp assessments of each side's successes and failures (he considers the 9/11 attacks to have been more of a failure than a success for their perpetrators), make it necessary reading for anyone wanting to understand our times. --Tom Nissley

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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. Much of the narrative conforms in outline to other recent books on the conflict, but Bergen adds much detail and contour to his analyses. He finds serious miscalculations on the part of the terrorist organization, and sees the "surge" in Iraq signaling a larger decline in al-Qaeda's potency. At the same time, he argues that the widespread backlash in the Middle East against the September 11 attacks confirms it is mainstream Islam that poses the greatest "ideological threat" to al-Qaeda. The U.S., meanwhile, has let incompetence and a misguided obsession with Iraq undermine its efforts to extinguish al-Qaeda and the enduring influence of bin Laden, who, Bergen argues, is still alive. Drawing on vast firsthand knowledge of the region and mining a huge stock of primary and secondary material, including his own interviews with combatants, the book's depth of detail and breadth of insight make it one of the more useful analyses of the ongoing conflict. (Jan.)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (January 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780743278935
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743278935
  • ASIN: 0743278933
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #921,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Loyd Eskildson HALL OF FAME on January 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Nearly a decade after 9/11 we're still fighting in Afghanistan, and have yet to withdraw from Iraq (hopefully this year). While we haven't had another major terrorist attack since, we have spent over $1 trillion, thousands have died, and evidence indicates that we've also inspired a surge in Islamist opposition. Currently, many reports indicate things are not going well in Afghanistan. Peter Bergen's (one of the very few Westerners to interview Osama Bin Laden) summary in "The Longest War" is interesting and credible, though suffers from a obvious errors and only superficial treatment of Afghanistan.

The first error occurs at the very beginning when Bergen asserts that 9/11 represented a miscalculation by Bin Laden, causing the collapse of the Taliban regime and the destruction of Al-Qaeda's safe have in Afghanistan. However, given the Taliban's subsequent resurgence, Al-Qaeda's successful relocation to Pakistan etc., and its continued ability to roil and financially bleed foes around the world with various bombings and even attempted bombings, Bin Laden is undoubtedly quite pleased with the trade-off.

Bergen continues with important background - how Bin Laden had concluded that the U.S. was weak, based on our pullout from Vietnam in the 1970s, Reagan's fleeing Beirut after the Marine barracks bombing, Clinton's withdrawal of forces in Somalia after the 'Black Hawk Down' incident a decade later, and our failure to respond to the U.S.S. Cole bombing just prior to Bush II becoming president. As for Al-Qaeda's contribution to the Soviet departure from Afghanistan, Bergen believes it is much overrated - the number of Afghans fighting totaled about 175,000, vs. no more than several hundred outside Arabs at any one time.
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By 05/11A on January 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
PAKITA,KHOST & GHAZNI PROVINCES/2003;IRAQ/2005

Very good book...the author provides insight into al qaida (hereinafter al Q" in order to understand the initial organizational structure, the intent, the history and the current status of Al Q.."the base".

The book moves through Iraq with the al Q with emphasis on the invasion of Iraq, the disbandment of the military and civilian infrastructure and the onset of the insurgency. The book provides a deep introspective review based on current information and direct quotes from those who were in the decision matrix who were involved in what was initially a "war of choice"...Iraq. But, moreover, the disbandment of the Iraqi military in total and the entire civilian infrastructure was in fact the causation of the nearly 4300 US KIA and some 30,000 severely wounded...aside from the nearly 1 trillion in costs to the US taxpayer. These critical components of the Iraq war decision by the Bush people empowered al Q which sought to divide the Sunni against the Shi....this division of religious ideology continues to plague Iraq..and will do so for many years to come.

The book provides unique insights into the invasion of Afghanistan...and the horrific decision to basically abandon Afghanistan with the war in Iraq. For readers who have read previous books...or who served in Afghanistan post Tora Bora or Operation Anaconda (March of 2002) know that all efforts at post war reconciliation or stability was overshadowed by the war in Iraq.

From a personal standpoint, I witnessed the significant decrease programs designed to stabilize Afghanistan due directly to the war in Iraq. In short, we lost the momentum..and as such have and will pay a continuing price both in personnel losses, an ever evolving military strategy..
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The magazine 'The Economist', in its review, noted that Bergen offers nothing new in his new book on the US and it's war against Al-Qaeda, 'The Longest War'. I have to agree on that point; however, what Bergen offers is a complete history of the association between Al-Qaeda and America that as you read it is almost painfully familiar. Bergen provides a history of Al-Qaeda's beginnings, bin Laden of course, the bombing of the Cole, 9-11, bombing or our embassy in Africa, the war in Afghanistan, the Bush team's desire to go into Iraq, Guantanamo, water boarding, the on going war in Afghanistan, individual terrorists & sects and their various attempts/plans, and of course the endless search for Al-Qaeda/bin Laden. He also covers the actions of, although not in great deal, George H. W Bush, Clinton, W and Obama. This book provides quite a lot of detail in only 350 pages of narrative. The downside is only the last chapter or two address the most recent searches for Bin Laden and tries to pin point where he is and his present state of affairs. I do wish that Bergen had included some of his insights that he shared recently during his interview with Bill Maher where he spoke with genuine optimism that the U.S. can succeed in Afghanistan. In his book, he does note that bin Laden had the support of 63% of the Pakistan in 2004 but it's down to 18% today, certainly a good sign. If you want a very good overall history of the war against Al-Qaeda, this is a good book to read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This isn't something for faint-hearted or zealous partisan readers. But readers who care about national security and follow war events closely will applaud the quality research behind this remarkably objective publication. Anyway, that's my take.

The Vulcans organized our response to 9/11, generally with public support here and abroad. But the picture quickly darkened as it became apparent we were in over our head with no credible grand strategy. Maybe the Vulcans should have spent more time at the forge than sniffing each other's musk. This might have caused us to recalibrate some our efforts sooner, instead of waiting until after the 2008 election.

Almost anyone who has served in the White House, Pentagon or war theater understands the importance of positive metrics to reinforce the wisdom of those in charge. Analysts who are less optimistic simply disappear, and their charts shredded. In fact, honest doubters should be brought into the fold immediately, instead of being dismissed for disloyalty. Although unstated, this is certainly a supportable inference from The Longest War.

From 2003 to 2006 there was nothing but good news from the Green Zone, until even party loyalists could not paper over distressing reports of the ethnic turmoil in Iraq that was destroying the nation's social fabric from within. What saved the day, temporarily at least, was the Surge that helped put the exiled Sunnis back in the game from which they were ousted by Ambassador Bremer in 2003. We don't know yet how the Kurds, Sunnis and Shia will resolve their differences, but we're reasonably confident that Al Qaeda doesn't have the power it once did to create mayhem. Like him or not, the Surge would not have happened without the support of President Bush.
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