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

3.5 out of 5 stars 57 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: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #836,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Peter Bergen is a print, television and web journalist, documentary producer, think tank director, and the author of five books, three of which were New York Times bestsellers and three of which were named among the non-fiction books of the year by the Washington Post. The books have been translated into twenty languages and have been turned into three documentaries, two of which were nominated for Emmys and one of which won an Emmy.

He is Vice President, Director of the Fellows Programs and the International Security Program at New America in Washington D.C.; Professor of Practice at the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University where he is the co-director of the Center on the Future of War; CNN's national security analyst and a fellow at Fordham University's Center on National Security. He is the editor of the South Asia Channel and the South Asia Daily, online publications of Foreign Policy magazine. Bergen is on the editorial board of Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, a leading scholarly journal in the field, and has testified before multiple congressional committees about Afghanistan, Pakistan, al-Qaeda, drones and other terrorism-related issues. He is a member of the Homeland Security Project, a successor to the 9/11 Commission, and also of the Aspen Homeland Security Group. He is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy and writes a weekly column for CNN.com. He has held teaching positions at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University where he taught graduate students courses in his areas of expertise: Al-Qaeda and allied groups and U.S. national security. Bergen's new book, United States of Jihad: Investigating America's Homegrown Terrorists, will be published Feb. 2, 2016. Director Greg Barker adapted the book for the new HBO film Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemna which will debut Feb. 8, 2016.

His previous book, a New York Times bestseller, is Manhunt: The Ten Year Search for Bin Laden, from 9/11 to Abbottabad. The book was translated into eight languages and HBO produced a documentary based upon it. The film, for which Bergen is the executive producer, was in the Sundance Film 2013 competition and it won the Emmy for best documentary in 2013. The Washington Post, named Manhunt one of the best non-fiction books of 2012 and The Guardian named it one of the key books on Islamist extremism. The Sunday Times (UK) named it the best current affairs book of 2012 and The Times (UK) named it one of the best non-fiction books of 2012. The book was awarded the Overseas Press Club Cornelius Ryan award for best non-fiction book of 2012 on international affairs. Bergen was awarded the Stephen Ambrose History Award in 2014. Together with his wife Tresha Mabile he produced a film for National Geographic Television, "American War Generals," which aired in 2014.

His 2011 New York Times bestseller, was The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda. New York Times book reviewer Michiko Kakutani writes, "For readers interested in a highly informed, wide-angled, single-volume briefing on the war on terror so far, "The Longest War" is clearly that essential book." Tom Ricks also writing in the Times described the book as "stunning." Longest War won the $30,000 Gold Prize for best book on the Middle East of 2011 from the Washington Institute. Newsweek and the Guardian named Longest War as one of the key books about terrorism of the past decade. And Amazon, Kirkus and Foreign Policy named Longest War as one of the best books of 2011.

His previous book was "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader" (Free Press, 2006). It was named one of the best non-fiction books of 2006 by The Washington Post. "The Osama bin Laden I Know" was translated into French, Spanish and Polish, and CNN produced a two hour documentary, "In the Footsteps of bin Laden," based on the book. Bergen was one of the producers of the CNN documentary, which was named the best documentary of 2006 by the Society of Professional Journalists and was nominated for an Emmy. Bergen is also the author of Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Bin Laden. (Free Press, 2001). Holy War, Inc. was a New York Times bestseller, has been translated into eighteen languages and was named one of the best non-fiction books of 2001 by The Washington Post. A documentary based on Holy War, Inc., which aired on National Geographic Television, was nominated for an Emmy in 2002. Bergen was the recipient of the 2000 Leonard Silk Journalism Fellowship and was the Pew Journalist in Residence at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in 2001 while writing Holy War, Inc. He was a fellow at New York University's Center on Law & Security between 2003 and 2011.

Talibanistan: Negotiating the Borders Between Terror, Politics and Religion is a collections of essays about the Taliban that Bergen edited with Katherine Tiedemann that was published by Oxford University Press in 2013. The New York Review of Books described the book as "a frequently brilliant collection of essays by different experts on the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan." Cambridge University Press published Drone Wars: Transforming Conflict, Law, and Policy in 2014 which Bergen edited with Daniel Rothenberg, in which a variety of experts consider how armed drones are reshaping warfare and the legal norms that surround it.

Bergen has written about al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, Pakistan, counterterrorism, homeland security and countries around the Middle East for a range of American newspapers and magazines including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Foreign Affairs, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Rolling Stone, TIME, The Nation, The National Interest, Mother Jones, Newsweek, Washington Times and Vanity Fair. His story on extraordinary rendition for Mother Jones was part of a package of stories nominated for a 2008 National Magazine Award. He has also written for newspapers and magazines around the world such as The Guardian, The Times, The Daily Telegraph, International Herald Tribune, Prospect, El Mundo, La Repubblica, The National, Der Spiegel, Die Welt and Focus. And he has worked as a correspondent or producer for multiple documentaries that have aired on National Geographic, Discovery and CNN. The AfPak Channel for which Bergen was the editor was nominated in 2011 for a National Magazine Award for Best Online Department.

In 1997, as a producer for CNN, Bergen produced bin Laden's first television interview, in which he declared war against the United States for the first time to a Western audience. In 1994 he won the Overseas Press Club Edward R. Murrow award for best foreign affairs documentary for the CNN program "Kingdom of Cocaine," which was also nominated for an Emmy. Bergen co-produced the CNN documentary Terror Nation which traced the links between Afghanistan and the bombers who attacked the World Trade Center for the first time in 1993. The documentary, which was shot in Afghanistan during the civil war there and aired in 1994, concluded that the country would be the source of additional anti-Western terrorism. From 1998 to 1999 Bergen worked as a correspondent-producer for CNN. He was program editor for "CNN Impact," a co-production of CNN and TIME, from 1997 to 1998.

Previously he worked for CNN as a producer on a wide variety of international and U.S. national stories. From 1985 to 1990 he worked for ABC News in New York. In 1983 he traveled to Pakistan for the first time with two friends to make a documentary about the Afghan refugees fleeing the Soviet invasion of their country. The subsequent documentary, Refugees of Faith, was shown on Channel 4 (UK).

Bergen has a degree in Modern History from New College, Oxford University. He won an Open Scholarship when he went up to New College in 1981. Before that he attended Ampleforth. He was born in Minneapolis in 1962 and was raised in London.

He is married to the documentary director/producer Tresha Mabile. Her web site can be found here http://treshamabile.com/index.html. They have a son and a daughter.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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