Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia Hardcover – November 19, 2012
See the Best Books of 2017
Looking for something great to read? Browse our editors' picks for the best books of the year in fiction, nonfiction, mysteries, children's books, and much more.
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
While U.S. foreign policy focuses on Iraq and Afghanistan, Yemen presents a mounting threat as al-Qaeda grows in strength and influence in the remote regions of the Arab world. Johnsen, an expert on Yemen, draws on al-Qaeda battle notes to deliver a detailed analysis of how a nation that had been a success story in the U.S. effort to defeat al-Qaeda and stabilize the region has been the site for resurgence instead. He examines the historical factors that have contributed to the buildup of al-Qaeda in Yemen as young men were recruited by the government, Yemeni tribes, and mosques in a concerted effort to turn the war in Afghanistan into a broader jihad. Johnsen explores the motivations of major figures, including tribal loyalties, old rivalries, new oil revenue, and geopolitics. Most compelling are the details of recruitment and training of young men vulnerable to appeals to righteousness and adventure as they are drawn into the training campuses and safe houses, where terrorists plot their attacks on the U.S. and its allies. Gripping and insightful. --Vanessa Bush
“Gregory Johnsen has written a break-through book on one of the most under-reported and misunderstood stories of the post 9-11 era. Penned in gripping prose and with incredible attention to detail, The Last Refuge unfolds with the pace of an action novel. But this story is all too true. If we ignore the widening covert war in Yemen and fail to learn from its complicated history, we do so at our own peril. Years from now, Johnsen will be seen as one of the few who got it right.”
- Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
“Gregory Johnsen, an authority on Yemen and jihadist extremists, has delivered in The Last Refuge a wonderfully well written and deeply reported account of the only al-Qaeda affiliate that continues to pose a real threat to the West.”
- Peter L. Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Osama bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad
“The Last Refuge offers a valuable look at al-Qaeda’s operational history in Yemen. Gregory Johnsen has done us all a service by explaining the country, the threats, and why we should pay attention.”
- Ali H. Soufan, author of The Black Banners: The Inside Story of 9/11 and the War Against al-Qaeda
“Johnsen... has produced the first comprehensive history of the al Qaeda movement [in Yemen]: an engrossing account of the operations, personalities, and motivations that have caused the US such headaches.”
- Publishers Weekly
“Gregory Johnsen has written the best new book on al Qaeda in 2012 and the best book on Yemen in years.... The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia is a detailed narrative account of the development of [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula]. It is also a great read...”
- Bruce Riedel, Daily Beast
“The Last Refuge is an authoritative and deftly written account of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni incarnation. The book is dense with terrorist genealogies, but it also offers a lively portrait of the American government’s stumbling efforts to understand and influence a profoundly alien culture. His account, starting in the 1980s, implicitly places Yemen near the center of the global jihadi movement; it may not be where al-Qaeda started, but it has always furnished many of the movement’s foot soldiers, and it has now succeeded Afghanistan as the US government’s most urgent concern about counterterrorism.”
- Robert R. Worth, The New York Review of Books
“Gripping and insightful.”
“Part modern history, part explanatory narrative… Johnson moves deftly between decades, continents and languages.... The Last Refuge is a cogent insight into what the U.S. has done in the past twenty-five years―a bird’s-eye-view on those successes and failures, in all their shades of horrid gray...”
- Haley Sweetland Edwards, The Washington Monthly
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Be careful not to expect any kind of analysis of U.S. policy in Yemen. The book, while providing an in depth story, does not come to a set of conclusions or policy recommendations. In the last chapter of the book, the story of AQAP simply ends, without any kind of discussions about the implications of the story the book has so painstakingly laid out. From reading Johnsen's blogs and other materials, it seems like he has quite strong (and very intelligently put) opinions about U.S. policy in the region, and it is a disappointment that these weren't included in this book.
Ali Abdullah Salih ruled (or tried to rule) for over 30 years although the government of Yemen never controlled the entire country and often only held sway over Sana’a and the area immediately around the capital. He thought it would be a good idea to send young men to Afghanistan for jihad and then begin using them against his only real opposition, the Socialist Party. He realized too late that while setting a process in motion may seem easy, controlling it or even influencing its direction can become impossible. Many young men left as idealistic defenders of Islam against invasion from infidels and returned as hardened Al Qaeda operatives, experienced in combat and unwilling to live under Salih’s kleptocratic regime.
And so these returning veterans created Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Salih was happy to allow U. S. counterinsurgency operations against AQAP but since they consisted solely using drones to kill those suspected of being ranking members of AQAP. The missiles fired by the drones sometime killed tribal or political enemies of the government of Yemen instead of their putative targets and more importantly, killed many Yemenis with no ties to Al Qaeda. Thus was a poorly coordinated rebellion turned into a large scale insurgency.
Events caught up with Johnsen—the Salih regime fell shortly after he finished the book but recent events in Yemen including the Houthi occupation of Sana’a and the collapse of the government that followed Salih shows the impossibility of accounting for everything with such a fast changing and unpredictable set of actors.
Highly recommended as a detailed history and analysis of the growth of terrorism in Yemen and the U.S. response to it.