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The Exile joins Osama bin Laden as he escapes into Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, bringing to vivid life the years leading up to his death spent on the run and in exile. It tells the human story, and illuminates the global political workings. It is a tale of evasion, collusion, betrayal and the deep pain of isolation. Staying with a small group of characters The Exile joins Osama bin Laden as he escapes into Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, bringing to vivid life the years leading up to his death spent on the run and in exile. It tells the human story, and illuminates the global political workings. It is a tale of evasion, collusion, betrayal and the deep pain of isolation. Staying with a small group of characters throughout, The Exile moves through a series of dramatic set-pieces, from the shocking failure of the Battle of Tora Bora, one of the most significant losses in US strategic history, when, outgunned and outflanked, Osama still managed to give the world's most accomplished trackers the slip, through his covert journey from safe-house to safe-house in Pakistan, to the years spent hiding in the military compound in Abottabad where he was eventually to be killed. Using the contacts built up through years of research, including wives of key players such as Osama bin Laden and his mastermind, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the authors have gained extraordinary and intimate insight into Osama bin Laden and those closest to him. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, this is an enthralling and revelatory journey.


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The Exile joins Osama bin Laden as he escapes into Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, bringing to vivid life the years leading up to his death spent on the run and in exile. It tells the human story, and illuminates the global political workings. It is a tale of evasion, collusion, betrayal and the deep pain of isolation. Staying with a small group of characters The Exile joins Osama bin Laden as he escapes into Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, bringing to vivid life the years leading up to his death spent on the run and in exile. It tells the human story, and illuminates the global political workings. It is a tale of evasion, collusion, betrayal and the deep pain of isolation. Staying with a small group of characters throughout, The Exile moves through a series of dramatic set-pieces, from the shocking failure of the Battle of Tora Bora, one of the most significant losses in US strategic history, when, outgunned and outflanked, Osama still managed to give the world's most accomplished trackers the slip, through his covert journey from safe-house to safe-house in Pakistan, to the years spent hiding in the military compound in Abottabad where he was eventually to be killed. Using the contacts built up through years of research, including wives of key players such as Osama bin Laden and his mastermind, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the authors have gained extraordinary and intimate insight into Osama bin Laden and those closest to him. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, this is an enthralling and revelatory journey.

30 review for The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight

  1. 4 out of 5

    Alex Linschoten

    There is no shortage of books on the September 11 attacks and their aftermath. Some stand back to analyse it in terms of trends and networks, seeking to explain the 'why' through abstractions. Others have written participant accounts or their histories from the sidelines. The Exile offers a fulsome corrective to this trend towards abstraction. Curious what life was like for bin Laden, his commanders and their families? Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy deliver in spades. The beating heart of this There is no shortage of books on the September 11 attacks and their aftermath. Some stand back to analyse it in terms of trends and networks, seeking to explain the 'why' through abstractions. Others have written participant accounts or their histories from the sidelines. The Exile offers a fulsome corrective to this trend towards abstraction. Curious what life was like for bin Laden, his commanders and their families? Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy deliver in spades. The beating heart of this book are the stories of bin Laden's wives, their children and their life in 'exile'. The authors seem to have managed to achieve as yet unparalleled access to the wives and some other family members of Osama bin Laden, and their tale is both gripping and believable. The second important contribution that the book makes is to reveal Iran's role in hosting the bin Laden families (and commanders) post-2001. The rich detail goes a long way to giving the reader a sense of the day-to-day frustrations of their lives in Tehran (and other places). The book would be worth its price just for these sections alone. Chapter Eleven tells the story of the night bin Laden died, to a large extent from the perspective of his wives and family members. They also weave in accounts from US soldiers participating in the raid, but this is a perspective we have been denied till now and I think it is an important one. Indeed, the trauma faced by the children on that night (and throughout the years prior, for the most part unable to leave their home) is one of the understated but crucial themes that stand out from 'The Exile'. Every account of bin Laden's time post-2001 has to grapple with the question of Pakistan's role. The authors take a smart position throughout the book, which is to abstain from abstraction and a strong analytic voice. There are some claims of Pakistani ISI involvement and meetings here and there, but they step back a little before charging the government or senior officials with a state-level conspiracy. Whatever happened, this account holds, was much more an affair of bit players. The book had the feeling of being rushed to press. It must have cost a lot to research the book, so perhaps the authors simply ran out of funds, but it seemed like there were so many other lines of enquiry that could have been started. The hardcover copy I read still had a fairly large number of typos, and it's a shame that the authors use the word "Afghanis" to refer to Afghans. The book is extremely readable -- it kept me up until two in the morning as I finished it -- and this is in large part because of the use of dialogue and building up narrative tension through conversations. Unfortunately, the handling of some of these conversations -- reported through interviews with participants -- strains credulity. Study of memory and oral history has shown how these kinds of memories degrade or get reshaped with each telling, and I wish there were more caveats throughout the book that what we're reading is an approximation of what happened in order to better imaginatively enter the situation. All in all, though, The Exile is an important book, an engrossing read and hopefully the beginning of more enquiries as others follow up on leads and side-stories raised in the telling. It seems that scholars of September 11 and its aftermath are doomed to eternally reading and retelling the same events in slightly different contortions as new facts and witnesses emerge. If all the books were as good as this one, I wouldn't mind so so much.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Murtaza

    In what may be one of the strangest episodes in world history, a small group of poorly-resourced men in a remote area of a devastated country launched an attack against the most powerful empire in the world that succeeded in slowly degrading its institutions and global influence to the point of near collapse. This is the irksome story of al Qaeda and the United States, which is still playing out 16 years after the planes struck the towers in Manhattan. Although many of those who started this bat In what may be one of the strangest episodes in world history, a small group of poorly-resourced men in a remote area of a devastated country launched an attack against the most powerful empire in the world that succeeded in slowly degrading its institutions and global influence to the point of near collapse. This is the irksome story of al Qaeda and the United States, which is still playing out 16 years after the planes struck the towers in Manhattan. Although many of those who started this battle have now exited the scene, the conflict they triggered continues to rage on with no end of sight. This book is a recounting of the period of exile that al Qaeda's leadership went into in the years after the attack, but it is also a meticulous and enthralling reconstruction of how we got to this point. Crucially, the book is based on interviews with former al Qaeda members and their families (particularly bin Laden's family), providing a very rare insight into how events were experienced on the other side of this conflict. The most incredible portions in my opinion are those that take place in Iran, where al Qaeda's top military leadership spent a decade living under a type of bizarre house arrest by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The reconstruction of the dynamic between al Qaeda figures, their families and their Western adversaries is compellingly done, and while reading you really feel come to feel as though you are perusing an alternate history of a period that we have all lived through. I made copious notes from the book and will return to it many more times in the future. Its one of the few books that I would describe as an indispensable history of our current era and I recommend it to anyone, though it is mandatory for those with an interest in the "War on Terror," which, frankly, seems to be just getting started.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Steven Z.

    After perpetrating the horror of 9/11 al-Qaeda leadership and its followers scattered with the expectation that they had provoked what would be a massive military response. The path Osama Bin Laden and his family, al-Qaeda officials, and others took to escape the lethal American bombardment has been open to conjecture by historians and journalists for sixteen years. The publication of THE EXILE: THE STUNNING INSIDE STORY OF OSAMA BIN LADEN AND AL QAEDA IN FLIGHT by Cathy Scott- Clark and Adrian After perpetrating the horror of 9/11 al-Qaeda leadership and its followers scattered with the expectation that they had provoked what would be a massive military response. The path Osama Bin Laden and his family, al-Qaeda officials, and others took to escape the lethal American bombardment has been open to conjecture by historians and journalists for sixteen years. The publication of THE EXILE: THE STUNNING INSIDE STORY OF OSAMA BIN LADEN AND AL QAEDA IN FLIGHT by Cathy Scott- Clark and Adrian Levy goes a long way in filling the gaps in what happened to Bin Laden and his followers, concluding in 2017. The authors employ their investigative journalistic prowess to write the most complete account of the years the United States hunted for Bin Laden, al-Qaeda leadership, and operatives until their final capture or death. What sets their work apart is that they rely on the stories of al-Qaeda leaders, gunmen, planners, spiritual guides, fighters, and family members told to them through countless interviews. We witness the failure of the Bush administration to take out Bin Laden as they immediately pivoted to the invasion of Iraq, the rise of the Islamic State, the truth of what occurred in Abbottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011, and the individual stories of countless al-Qaeda and Taliban members as they sought to survive. The narrative begins with Osama Bin Laden listening to a radio inside a cave north of Khost to what he hoped would be news of a successful attack on the World Trade Center. What is interesting from the outside is that the authors report that the al-Qaeda Shura was actually divided as to the pursuit of the “plane operation” strategy. Mahfouz Ibn El Waleed who Bin Laden relied upon to create religious justifications for his actions led the faction that opposed the attack. El Waleed was also known as the “Mauritanian” served as Bin Laden’s go between with Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and arranging for Bin Laden’s family to seek refuge in Iran. The authors also focus in on Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a Kuwaiti cleric who prepared Bin Laden’s video reaction to the World Trade Center success and also accompanied the Bin Laden family to Iran. Further, al-Qaeda kept the Taliban leadership in the dark over the 9/11 plan. The authors present exacting detail in all aspects of the narrative. They even discuss Bin Laden family turmoil involving Osama’s four wives, two of which were extremely religious and committed to their husband’s policy of jihad. The authors discuss Bin Laden’s treatment of his wives and children and he comes across as an insular figure who marries off his daughters to mujahedeen, and educates his children to carry out his jihad. When certain sons and daughters do not measure up he has no problem dispatching them to other family members or acolytes. The family’s plight is based on interviews and we see their terror when exposed to American drones and bombing. The role of Iran in this process is very interesting in that Teheran is willing to provide sanctuary to many family members. At the outset Iran, long disassociated from the United States offers intelligence and other assistance to Washington. However, within the Iranian government there was a split between a reformist faction led by President Mohammad Khatami and Quds Force Leader Qassem Suleimani over whether to turn over Bin Laden family members to the United States. However, President George W. Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech put an end to any improvement in Iranian-American relations and led to Suleimani’s dominance over policy. Sadly, the Bush administration’s obsession with Iraq led to the lost opportunity of possibly improving relations with Iran as both wanted to destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The authors review the role of the ISI, Pakistan’s version of the CIA that has been told in a number of places. They reach the same conclusions as previous authors and officials that the Pakistani government was not to be trusted and were in bed with the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other jihadi elements. Under President Pervez Musharraf and those that succeeded he in office the Islamabad strategy was to milk the United States for as much military and domestic aid as possible, feigning support, which at times did include military operations against al-Qaeda and the Taliban. The lack of Pakistani government control in the border areas of Waziristan allowed al-Qaeda, Taliban and other jihadi groups a sanctuary from American attack. CIA frustration with ISI and Pakistani government duplicity dominate the narrative. The authors detail Bin Laden’s escape from the Tora Bora caves north of Khost. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his men were also present in the area and along with al-Qaeda militants the authors describe how unnerved they were by the massive US bombing and the hundreds of people that were killed. It appeared to CIA Station Chief Robert Grenier in Islamabad that al-Qaeda and Bin Laden would withdraw into Waziristan, Pakistan’s “no man’s land” and he had no faith that the Pakistani promise to interdict them would take place. In fact the Mumbai attack in India took place at the same time, resulting in Pakistani troops moving to its border with India, a change that seems almost too coincidental. Grenier asked general Tommy Franks for troops to keep al-Qaeda and Bin Laden boxed in, but he refused, almost guaranteeing their escape. Franks’ argument was that he did not want to commit troops and make the same error as the Soviet Union. This may have played a role in his thinking, but Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had already turned to regime change in Iraq. The authors dig into the evolution of US interrogation techniques paying special attention to Dr. James Mitchell, a clinical psychologist who had no practical experience with this type of interrogation, i.e., waterboarding, walling, diapers, insects, etc. a policy approved by Attorney General John Ashcroft in July, 2002. The narrative presented is based on the diary prepared by Abu Zubayda, a Saudi born Palestinian logistical expert who sent recruits and funds to jihad training camps in Afghanistan from Peshawar. This diary provides an amazing picture of “ghost detainees” in the CIA’s covert rendition program and was the first to undergo enhanced interrogation techniques. Other sources include Justice Department documents, CIA tapes, and US Senate Reports. The chronological approach chosen by the authors covers most aspects of the run up to the war in Iraq, the Sunni uprising led by Zarqawi until his death, events in Afghanistan, including the resurgence of the Taliban, the role of Iran, and US strategy to achieve its goals in the region. Integrating the narrative with the plight of the Bin Laden family by concentrating on Osama’s journey that resulted in his five year residence in his compound in Abbottabad is extremely important in terms of the final capture. The American raid is described in detail as is the role played by Bin Laden’s Pakistani allies. Interestingly, according to the authors the Bin Laden family was about to move from the compound and travel to Peshawar. At the time of his death Osama Bin Laden was buoyed by the developing Arab spring, the economic crisis in the United States, and the unrest in Pakistan. His plan was to leave Abbottabad to “reinstate the rule of the Caliphate” in Peshawar. However, differences with Ibrahim, aka Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, assigned to be Osama’s constant companion delayed his departure, resulting in the successful American raid. Perhaps THE EXILES most important contribution to the growing source material on 9/11 and after is how they took the myriad of interviews of their subjects and formulated a clear and incisive narrative that explains how Osama Bin Laden and his family were able to escape to Pakistan, resulting in their claustrophobic life in Abbottabad as the US continued its search for years. The book fills an important gap in the historiography of its subject, and though at times is very rigid in its reporting, it a major contribution for academics and general readers alike.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tariq Mahmood

    An excellent book presenting a complete picture of the Al-Qaida years of exile after the infamous 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York. The book fills a lot of gaps between the capture of many Al-Qaida leaders but does fail to address two fundamental questions. Why was Al-Qaida able to command so much loyalty when the booty against its leadership so lucrative? What were the real reasons why America hasn't chosen indict these horrible terrorists if it has overwhelming evidence against them? I An excellent book presenting a complete picture of the Al-Qaida years of exile after the infamous 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York. The book fills a lot of gaps between the capture of many Al-Qaida leaders but does fail to address two fundamental questions. Why was Al-Qaida able to command so much loyalty when the booty against its leadership so lucrative? What were the real reasons why America hasn't chosen indict these horrible terrorists if it has overwhelming evidence against them? I do agree with the authors that this war against terror is far from over. Revolution is inherent in the genesis of Islam, so as long as there is perceived injustice there will be young men taking up the mantra of jihad sponsored rich older Muslims harbouring a romantic notion of Islamic resurgence. The book has exonerated Pakistan's role in the whole war to a great degree though. At no stage was the Pakistani army harbouring Osama or any of the other leaders like the Iranian government which housed and feted Osama's family for years. Pakistanis have generally cooperated even when they disliked what they were being asked to do. The book is a must read for all Pakistanis so that they can understand their country's real role and position in the War against terror.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Martin

    Along with The Looming Tower, this is one of the two most essential books on Al-Queda. The Exile traces the fallout from 9-11 on AQ, as it follows their members, and those searching for them over the next ten years. I had a lot of trouble putting this book down, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. The research that went in to this book is simply staggering.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Prabhat Singh

    Man, what does one say about a book which deserves a book of its own on how it was written? The level of detail, the objectivity, the style of presentation - everything is impeccable. The authors gained access to everyone from some of Osama's wives to the builder of the Abbottabad house in which Osama spent the last six years of his life! Though some of the things, such as ISI' role in aiding Taliban and Al-qaeda, are well known, the book provides rare insight into how this was done, and shows t Man, what does one say about a book which deserves a book of its own on how it was written? The level of detail, the objectivity, the style of presentation - everything is impeccable. The authors gained access to everyone from some of Osama's wives to the builder of the Abbottabad house in which Osama spent the last six years of his life! Though some of the things, such as ISI' role in aiding Taliban and Al-qaeda, are well known, the book provides rare insight into how this was done, and shows that the cooperation is so entrenched and off-the-books that not even the heads of army and ISI can do much to end it, though in some cases they act to further it. More importantly, the book establishes the crucial role Iran played in keeping Zarqawi (whose organisation was the precursor to ISIS) and Al-qaeda afloat and strengthening them in Syria and elsewhere, as the disastrous War on Terror dragged on. Here again, though, it's clear that the elected leadership of Iran was powerless. When they did seem to gain the upper hand over the Islamic loonies, the US weakened them through dumb public (axis of evil speech) or private rebuffs. The book also does a great job of laying bare the lies of Zero Dark Thirty, which suggested that CIA torture had led to actionable intelligence. In truth, it had only led to inhumanity and sheer waste of resources. For the Indian readers, it throws up the mouthwatering prospect of whether the Parliament attacks were carried out to facilitate Osama's escape from Tora Bora. To me, the most fascinating aspect of the book was its deep dive into Osama's vain, apathetic, deeply self-centred personality, and his increasing insecurity, jealousy and paranoia as his once-deputies either disobeyed him or got killed in drone strikes. I also experienced an I-told-you-so moment when, at the very beginning, it becomes clear that Osama's intention behind 9/11 was not not to kill a bunch of civilians, but to have US invade Afghanistan and lose its bearings in the process. This is exactly what I wrote about in a piece, on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Pardon the self-aggrandizement. I thought the only weak point of the book was its excessive focus on the plight of Al-qaeda prisoners in Iranian prisons. But anything less than 5 stars for this petty reason would be pedantic. Though men like Hitler and Osama were great evils, I can't help but feel a tinge of admiration, even envy, at the sheer force of will they possessed. But, as King Carlin once said, "Motivation is bullshit, if you ask me this world could use a little less motivation. The people who are motivated are the ones who are causing all the trouble."

  7. 4 out of 5

    Praveena D.M.

    One of the best book read in recent times. Well narrated story of Osama Bin Laden and his team. I had already watched the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" so I know how osama life ended. What fascinating for me is how osama survived almost ten years after 9/11 when worlds best men trying to find him. "Zero Dark Thirty" tells story only from CIA or American Intelligence agencies perspective, so don't skip this book. In this awesome book, Authors tells the story of all persons over the time. Authors follow One of the best book read in recent times. Well narrated story of Osama Bin Laden and his team. I had already watched the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" so I know how osama life ended. What fascinating for me is how osama survived almost ten years after 9/11 when worlds best men trying to find him. "Zero Dark Thirty" tells story only from CIA or American Intelligence agencies perspective, so don't skip this book. In this awesome book, Authors tells the story of all persons over the time. Authors follow the timeline so it will be easy to connect the incidents. Authors never tried to pass their judgement instead, they gave persons involved to express their opinion. The book deals with many persons, the way authors handled all the characters without confusing reader is most extraordinary work. The book is based on many people interviews, dairies, statements. However, author excellantly connected the dots so reading this book is an awesome experience. Even though, I hate al-qaeda or any terrorist organisation for that matter, some kind of liking started toward some persons like Khadija d/o Seham bin laden, iman bin laden etc. I felt emotional when Khadija die during her delivery of twins. Authors quality of bringing emotional side of notorious family members is outstanding. I strongly feel OBL went against shura to do suicide mission. I think its too foolish to underestimate USA. Without any army or any kind of preparation to defend them in inevitable war after plane operation, I feel he did nothing in terms of preparing to defend his turf. I loved the way authors wrote this book so I am going to read all the books wrote by Author Duo.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Asim Qureshi

    A fascinating account of the pre and post 2001 period within al-Qaeda. There are many new vignettes in this book, even for the seasoned reader on the history. Unfortunately, like many such books, there are all manner of Orientalist descriptions that make you cringe out of their lack of understanding or research. Fortunately, they don't distract from the overall narrative. Overall, a very worthwhile read.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sameer

    I think this is a good insight of the Al-Qaeda's network, leader, family and specially interesting facts about what happened after him. I am amazed at the amount of details been put and considering that the events just unfolded in the way it is written, this is something anyone interested in knowing should read. Overall I find this much better than Omar Laden's book itself.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Emmanuel

    The research undertaken to make this book must have been staggering; the ass of the book is plumped with notes and reference numbers in the hundreds for each chapter. The result is an in-depth narrative of the hunt for OBL from 2001-11 from multiple perspective points. Very insightful and thrilling at times.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Diana Grace

    Note to self: Watch Zero Dark Thirty

  12. 4 out of 5

    Colin

    This is a well-written and engaging history of the bin Laden family’s escape from Afghanistan after 2001 and their life in hiding in Iran and Pakistan in the years following the 9/11 attacks. It draws on a lot of sources, including interviews with family members or surviving Al Qaeda operatives, as well as portions of Osama’s correspondence that the U.S. has declassified in the time since the Abbottabad raid. If you are a reader who has followed these subjects closely, this may all be familiar s This is a well-written and engaging history of the bin Laden family’s escape from Afghanistan after 2001 and their life in hiding in Iran and Pakistan in the years following the 9/11 attacks. It draws on a lot of sources, including interviews with family members or surviving Al Qaeda operatives, as well as portions of Osama’s correspondence that the U.S. has declassified in the time since the Abbottabad raid. If you are a reader who has followed these subjects closely, this may all be familiar stuff, but I found it to be a solid synthesis history. There’s a good amount of detail about how the Al Qaeda organization struggled to survive and continue its operations after 9/11 - among other things, the book pretty clearly shows how devastating the U.S. covert drone strike program (which the authors make clear was carried out with the permission of the Pakistani security services, their protests notwithstanding) was on Al Qaeda’s ability to maintain command and control. But the book is less concerned with Al Qaeda's organizational activities and continued covert terrorism efforts and more with the impact of the American counterterrorism campaign on AQ members, including Osama’s children and wives and those of his aides. The book in many ways offers an extension and coda to Steve Coll’s book on the bin Laden family; although Osama himself is still a rather remote figure throughout, the authors manage to evoke some sympathy for the family members who found themselves swept along, effectively imprisoned by his ambitions and actions, as Osama himself also appears to have been for several years before the end. The book is also quite explicit about the brutalities of the CIA torture program against some of the Al Qaeda operatives who failed to escape capture. While Osama and his followers are guilty of horrible crimes, it will be a lasting shame of the Bush administration, those individuals involved, and our country as a whole that these abuses were committed, violating the tenets of professional interrogation and the rule of law. A lot of it may ultimately be authorial flourishes, but the sense of isolation, paranoia, and fear of Osama and his entourage comes through quite clearly, even if you do not find these people to be especially sympathetic in the end. A major chunk of the book, and probably the part involving the most original interview material, involves the detention of a portion of the bin Laden clan in Iran by the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. (The bulk of this account appears to have come through interviews with Mahfouz Ibn El Waleed, a Mauritanian religious scholar who previously chaired the Al Qaeda sharia committee and who spent a chunk of time imprisoned along with the family. He appears to have subsequently split with Osama, but I would say his motivations for cooperating with this project are not fully scrutinized.) Iran held on to the bin Laden family for several years as a possible bargaining chip -- either for encouraging Al Qaeda attacks in Iraq to destabilize US efforts there (Iran is described as facilitating Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s entry and attacks into the country, and some degree of communication by members of the former Al Qaeda military committee imprisoned in Iran, although if that's the case it certainly seems to have backfired) or in negotiations with the United States to secure cooperation. The book strongly implies but does not quite explicitly confirm that members of the bin Laden family were released (or perhaps allowed to escape) by Iran in order to allow for their being traced by the United States back to bin Laden’s ultimate hiding place, something he evidently feared but was unable to resist. I am not an Iran watcher and won’t pretend to be able to parse their interests in this episode. Generally speaking, as Alex Strick van Linschoten flagged in his review, there’s a considerable degree of reconstruction involved in these accounts, and like some of the authors’ previous books I would be cautious about relying wholly on their explanations. On the question of the awareness of the Pakistani security services regarding Osama’s hiding place in Abbottabad, the book takes a rather mixed approach. Although the accounts of the establishment of the Abbottabad hiding place offer a fairly plausible case through which Osama would have evaded detection (I don't think I've seen it reported previously that that the ISI had no detachment in Abbottabad prior to the 2005 earthquake) the book also cites claims that former ISI chief Hamid Gul (who is described as leading the “S-Wing”, seen here as an independent and deniable faction of the ISI) and Harakat-ul-Mujahadeen leader Fazlur Rehman Khalil (a frequent go-between for the ISI with militant groups) were aware of his presence or somehow facilitated his hiding. (Lashkar-e-Taiba also, briefly, gets blamed for somehow facilitating the purchase of the land, but not at length or with much source material to back that claim up.) Subsequently declassified seized internal Al Qaeda correspondence did describe an indirect outreach attempt by ISI Chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha to Al Qaeda through militant intermediaries, so it seems reasonable to assume that (denials aside) Pakistani intelligence services knew of his presence in the country, if not necessarily his exact whereabouts. The book also notes multiple efforts by the CIA to infiltrate Al Qaeda through the return of former AQ detainees, so one hypothesis at least would be to interpret the attempted ISI outreach in that same category. (At the senior levels at least, the book suggests Pakistani unhappiness with the US raid and surprise at Osama’s presence was genuine, even if official Pakistani introspection on the issue proved to be pro forma and hidden in secrecy.) For the most part, the book avoids sensationalism on this and other points despite the obviously sensational nature of the story (I found their book on Pakistan’s nuclear program more egregious in that regard), but as always, would recommend careful and critical reading. While really not the focus of the book, I found the brief discussions of Zarqawi in Iraq and the foundation of the Islamic State useful as a simple introduction to that organizational transformation. The book notes the debates over Al Qaeda’s enduring strength or lack thereof in the wake of bin Laden’s death, but doesn’t really resolve the question or shed new light on the degree of his operational influence. There is a lot of thought-provoking and interesting material in here, and the book offers an important account of post 9/11 history. Definitely recommended.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Sukanto

    Finally finished this book which seemed to be never ending. But was worth it I think.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Surabhi Nijhawan

    It's a great piece of investigative journalism. What I liked the most about it was that it not only had the details of Bin Laden's exile and raid at Abbottabad, but several other issues, such as the Arab Spring, making of IS etc. The only problem with the book is that it has too many people and often gets confusing to remember who did what. Nevertheless, informative and objective account. It's a must read for those who want to read about modern war history.

  15. 4 out of 5

    PvOberstein

    The Exile (Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy) is, insofar as I am aware, the most comprehensive history of al-Qaeda in the post-9/11 era to date, making extensive use of documents recovered and declassified from Abbottabad to paint the picture of Osama bin Laden’s life on the run. The 500 pages of narrative take the reader on a sweeping tour of the Global War in Terror, and providing remarkable detail into the dynamics of the extended bin Laden family, the “deep state” of the Pakistani security The Exile (Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy) is, insofar as I am aware, the most comprehensive history of al-Qaeda in the post-9/11 era to date, making extensive use of documents recovered and declassified from Abbottabad to paint the picture of Osama bin Laden’s life on the run. The 500 pages of narrative take the reader on a sweeping tour of the Global War in Terror, and providing remarkable detail into the dynamics of the extended bin Laden family, the “deep state” of the Pakistani security services, and the mercurial relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran. I read most of it in a handful of (very long) sittings (though I’m still paging through the dozens of pages of endnotes). If nothing else, you’ll really appreciate how much time these terrorist masterminds spent arranging marriages. There have been so many books on the War on Terror and Osama bin Laden (and I’ve read a sizable chunk of them), but The Exile still manages to provide lots of interesting information. Most eye-opening was the role in which the Qods Force of Iran (lead by Qasem Soleimani, one of the most fascinating masterminds of our times), providing shelter (i.e.: house arrest) for much of al-Qaeda’s leadership following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, as well as to members of bin Laden’s family. After the U.S. blew early opportunities to reach a “Grand Compromise” with Iran, as described by the authors, the Qods Force kept al-Qaeda leaders under its thumb at secure compounds across the country, but primarily in Tehran itself. This was done (apparently) not so much because Iran wanted to act as a base of operations for al-Qaeda (from a theological perspective, al-Qaeda is fundamentally hostile to the Shi’ite “Rejectionists” of Iran), but more as insurance against AQ attacks on Iran and as future negotiating leverage, either with terrorist organizations or the United States. Towards the end of the book, we see how Iran redirected AQ personnel who arrived via Pakistan to fight against other Sunni extremist groups in Syria and Iraq, ultimately benefiting the Alawite regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has to be one of the more convoluted alliances of convenience. The authors have clearly done their homework, performing on-the-ground interviews from Rawalpindi to Mauritania. That is definitely no small feet. While the nominal focus of the book is on how exactly Osama bin Laden remained alive for so damn long post-9/11, the authors go into extensive detail about any number of terrorism-related topics, including the history of the CIA “black sites”, the making of Zero Dark Thirty, the rise of the Islamic State, and the obligatory raid on Abbottabad. It does much to undermine the vaunted efficacy of the “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (torture) that have been pilloried by the liberally-minded, though at the same time, one can’t help but appreciate how the UAV (drone) campaign crippled al-Qaeda’s operations in Pakistan (the horrendous civilian casualties notwithstanding). The level of detail, though, sometimes has the effect of ‘missing the forest for the trees’, as “Big Picture” events are often mentioned only in passing. The development of the conventional wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are given only cursory mentions, forcing the reader to place some of the events in their geopolitical context. The territorial conflicts in Libya, Mali, Somalia and Yemen are given scarce mention at all, nor do we see much of the looming possibility of a war with Iran over its nuclear program. Stylistically, The Exile is extremely easy to read, much more like a journalistic article than a dense history book or a PhD thesis. While it allowed me to breeze through it in a couple of days, this is something of a double-edged sword, as the level of detail kept making me wonder how much of the book was just regurgitating what was written in memoirs or spoken about in interviews years down the road. This is glaringly apparent during the raid on Abbottabad, for example (when the authors describe what is being “thought” by Robert O’Neill in tones conspicuously transplanted from his memoir), but are pervasive throughout the book. Does anyone really remember exactly what was spoken in Tehran in 2004, or is what is presented as fact merely what was remembered a decade later in Nouakchott? Fairly early on in the book there was a reference to someone using Skype to make a call in 2002, which made me fact-check that Skype wasn’t released until 2003, and even then, only in beta. Not a particularly critical error, but it made me wonder if someone’s misremembered memories needed a bit more fact-checking. This really would’ve benefited from using footnotes instead of endnotes, but publishers seem to dislike that. I read it with the assumption that the depiction of every “scene” should be taken with at least a few grains of salt, though the theses on a whole all seemed extremely well-supported. But yeah, recommended, if you’re into this sort of thing. Which I kinda am.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Divakar

    Adrain Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark are past masters on South and West Asian terror. They wrote an interesting book on Kashmir (The Meadow) and more recently the eminently readable SEIGE….which was on the terror attack on the Taj Hotel…now more famously referred to us 26/11. We’ve plenty of books on 9/11 and more on the Navy Seals attack on Abbottabad where they flushed out Osama Bin laden but hardly any one on what happened to Osama Bi laden post 9/11 till his assassination. The Exile travers Adrain Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark are past masters on South and West Asian terror. They wrote an interesting book on Kashmir (The Meadow) and more recently the eminently readable SEIGE….which was on the terror attack on the Taj Hotel…now more famously referred to us 26/11. We’ve plenty of books on 9/11 and more on the Navy Seals attack on Abbottabad where they flushed out Osama Bin laden but hardly any one on what happened to Osama Bi laden post 9/11 till his assassination. The Exile traverses this journey of roughly ten years and what you have is a very readable book….painstaking research, interviews with surviving members of the extended bin laden family, CIA spooks and case officers, multiple tribal leaders , on the ground trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan…and what finally comes out is a book rich in detail, with an ear to the ground and with an air of authenticity….that you rarely find when you are reconstructing recent history…finally giving it the favor of a Le Carre thriller. The book avoids the beaten path of the conversion of the uber rich bin Laden into a self-styled messiah…possibly it assumes that the reader would have read about this part elsewhere….and focuses on the issues post 9/11 and the fractious relationships of Osama Bin laden…with Mullah Omar…his sponsor in Afghanistan, with his core team, his religious advisors ; his struggle for survival with Tom Hawks and laser guided missiles after him in the Tora Bora caves, his providential escape from Tora Bora and his arrival in Pakistan ( some interesting sidelights on the how the terror attacks on the Indian parliament actually aided his smooth passage into Pakistan ),his frequent shifting of his ever growing caravan, his worries and anxieties about his multiple wives and his brood of children, the unexplained and at times unfathomable relationship with the Shia government of Iran…which provides asylum to a large part of his brood……the slow retreat of Al Qaeda…..defanging of all its bluff and bluster….and the emergence of its Version: 2….the ISIS…same objectives but more brutal and ruthless methods…and surprisingly more successful in terms of its ability to attract lost people looking for a cause. Perhaps this is the first book which has a detailed personal history of Osama. His half a dozen wives…(actually 4 as two of them ended in quick divorces) and the way he manages the relationships, his multiple children with different levels of ability and ambitions, his love for his mentally challenged son…Saad who finally got killed in a drone attack, his day to day issues with his hosts of Kuwaiti origin in Abbotabad…..the book gives you a personalised account… …at the end of it…you feel that the Osama who terrorized the West….finally has issues that any lower middle class family man has. Some never before published facts…actually startle you…like the hand of Al Qaeda in the 26/11 attacks. The family obsessed Osama preoccupied with family issues, working thru primitive methods of hand-couriers since he did not want to be located and with a obsession to mount something more dramatic than the ‘planes operation’ (this is Qaeda speak for 26/11) who is finally holed up in Abbotabad…..is unable to keep up with the rising expectations of the Jihad world…and its need for action…..and how parts of the Al Qaeda morphs into ISIL…ISIS…and now just called IS…and its Caliphate in Iraq is very well brought out. The wheels within the wheels of Shia-Sunni issues also finds mention. Strangely, the senior most wife of the Sunni Osama and a dozen other children….were housed in the Iran, a Shia country. Why did they provide asylum to a Sunni terrorist’s family ?....Was this an insurance against any attacks on their country or were they bargaining tools to be leveraged in the future….the book touches on these issues but does not provide conclusive answers. It is quite ironical that Osama shuns all technology to stay under the radar of the hi-tech gizmo wielding world of the CIA as he was paranoid of phones being tapped, mails being intercepted and lived an almost cave like existence in Abbotabad. One really cannot rule out a little bit of help of the ISI for him to stay underground for so many years as he leads a leisurely life, a couple of 100s of metres from the Pakistan Military Training academy in Abbotabad. Overall an interesting book….read it before it is done to death in book reviews in the Indian press.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Joe Silber

    The Exile is an amazingly detailed book that, while structured like a Tom Clancy novel, struggled a bit to hold my interest. After an unbelievable amount of research by the authors, including interviews with Bin Laden family members, Pakistani and US officials, and more, the book pieces together a nearly week by week timeline of what happened to Osama Bin Laden, his family, and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda members following the 9/11 attacks up through the raid on Abbotabad and its aftermath. Alon The Exile is an amazingly detailed book that, while structured like a Tom Clancy novel, struggled a bit to hold my interest. After an unbelievable amount of research by the authors, including interviews with Bin Laden family members, Pakistani and US officials, and more, the book pieces together a nearly week by week timeline of what happened to Osama Bin Laden, his family, and other high-ranking Al-Qaeda members following the 9/11 attacks up through the raid on Abbotabad and its aftermath. Along the way, we get glimpses into the conflicting political forces at play in Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and the US. This is a long book. You really feel the length. There's a lot of good material in here, but it's a big of a slog at times. The chapters are divided into relatively short segments by time/location, but there are a lot of these segments, and there are not really transitions, so you have to keep a lot in your head at once. The Arabic names were very challenging for me to keep straight (the authors do bestow some nicknames, like "The Mauritanian" but I still had to refer to the bios at the end of the volume a lot, and I still mixed people up constantly). Most frustratingly (perhaps trying to avoid making a long book even longer) the authors spend almost no time at any point providing a bigger picture. The reader is left to put together any larger takeaways themselves, which was challenging, given that it took me over a month and a half to read the book. This is still a fascinating book, and worth reading. You get a clear idea of what it was like to be part of Bin Laden's family, and what things were like to be in hiding from the US and its drone attacks. You learn about the Pakistan deep state within their intelligence service, and how it's often at odds with the rest of the government. You learn about all that Iran did to keep parts of the Bin Laden family and members of Al Qaeda safe yet confined (partly as hostages to prevent Al Qaeda attacks on Iran, partly because they were angry at Bush's axis of evil speech, partly because Ahmadinejad rose to power and was strongly anti-Western, among other possible reasons). You learn how close the US came to taking out Bin Laden in Tora Bora. You learn a lot about the US torture program. So go ahead and read the Exile, but be prepared for a long haul.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Zizi

    Dang. Believe the hype: this book is fantastic. Scott-Clark and Levy are masterful storytellers, and the entire story just flows perfectly and keeps you engrossed the whole time. The book is meticulously researched and based on interviews with nearly every key player who is neither dead nor still an active member of Al Qaeda. The book's stars are Bin Laden's family members, his wives and their children. They are, for the most part, depicted sympathetically but not without flaws. (Bin Laden himsel Dang. Believe the hype: this book is fantastic. Scott-Clark and Levy are masterful storytellers, and the entire story just flows perfectly and keeps you engrossed the whole time. The book is meticulously researched and based on interviews with nearly every key player who is neither dead nor still an active member of Al Qaeda. The book's stars are Bin Laden's family members, his wives and their children. They are, for the most part, depicted sympathetically but not without flaws. (Bin Laden himself is not depicted sympathetically at all, so don't be worried about that. Not only did he fail to see America's response to 9/11, but he was also a terrible father, a bad husband, and spent the last decade of his life mostly isolated and on his computer.) Each wife is explored in detail, and the lives of several of their children are fleshed out as well as they possibly could be. Some are tragic (a daughter, married off young, dies of childbirth-related complications), others are frustrating (Bin Laden's favorite son is still alive and aspires to be his mini-me), others are pitiful (several of his older sons had developmental issues, possibly related to inbreeding). The authors never try to make you forget that at least two of his wives and a few of his children were true believers in his terrorism, but even so they are presented as women who have found themselves in a situation they never signed up for. The B-plot of the book involves other Al Qaeda members, who found themselves completely unprepared for American retribution and the chaos that would ensue after 9/11. They're shuffled around through Afghanistan and Pakistan, some find their way to the custody of the Iranians (an odd arrangement that changes as the years pass by, disrupting the popular idea of the two groups never interacting due to ideological and religious differences), others head for the Gulf, many die. Most are terrible, violent people and are presented as such, but their stories are still gripping. The authors don't seek to spin some moral tale or explain how 9/11 impacted the entire world. The focus here is very narrow, and the cast quite small, and the story is much better for that. Highly recommended.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Hadi Ali

    Just finished The Exile by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy. It’s about Usama Bin Ladan’s years from just before 9/11 to his death in Abbott Abad Pakistan in 2011. After his death, the book covers Al-Qaida’s resurgence amid the chaos brought about by Islamic State in the region, ending with the pronouncement about one of his son as being listed a global terrorist by the USA. There is hardly any character in this theatre of violence that could draw one’s sympathy except for kids and some women. I Just finished The Exile by Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy. It’s about Usama Bin Ladan’s years from just before 9/11 to his death in Abbott Abad Pakistan in 2011. After his death, the book covers Al-Qaida’s resurgence amid the chaos brought about by Islamic State in the region, ending with the pronouncement about one of his son as being listed a global terrorist by the USA. There is hardly any character in this theatre of violence that could draw one’s sympathy except for kids and some women. It’s also the world of men serving men’s ambitions. Most of them appear as zealots, lunatics and often incompetent pawns in the hands of bigger players, who are in turn controlled by even bigger players. How the bigger players behave towards each other resembles a game of chess with an ever growing number of players playing on the same board, each aiming to win. They form allies in one moment and turn on each other in the next (US with and against Iran, Pakistan with and against Taliban and Al-Qaeda, Iran with and against Al-Qaeda etc). As this is happening, in the backdrop, a child dies here and a woman drops there with no end in sight. What most of the world in the end see is a dumbing down and adulterated version of the story in the form of something like the Zero Dark Thirty which make them believe that the good guys won and all is good now. When in fact, by US State Department representative’s own admittance, it’s only the “end of the beginning”. The books also confirms my long held foreboding that the butchering of minorities in the region isn’t going to stop anytime soon, as the shepherds are often in bed with wolves. When in Quetta, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi killed more than a 100 members of Hazara minority in 2013 in one single attack, the perpetrators mass celebrated the “century” (a term borrowed from cricket) with the protection of the people in power who were entrusted to protect the citizens. Anyone interested in South Asian or Middle Eastern affairs should get their hands on this book.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mubeen Irfan

    Did you know Osama carried out 9/11 despite not having a go ahead from his Al-Qaeda shura? Did you know Al-Qaeda major lieutenants escaped Tora Bora and subsequently fled to Iran where they were knowingly & willingly given refuge by Iran's Revolutionary guard so that they can be used later as baits with the USA? Did you know the infamous Abu Musab Zarqavi actually used Iran's network of funds and passage to escape and later carried out carnage against Shias in Iraq? The above are those startling re Did you know Osama carried out 9/11 despite not having a go ahead from his Al-Qaeda shura? Did you know Al-Qaeda major lieutenants escaped Tora Bora and subsequently fled to Iran where they were knowingly & willingly given refuge by Iran's Revolutionary guard so that they can be used later as baits with the USA? Did you know the infamous Abu Musab Zarqavi actually used Iran's network of funds and passage to escape and later carried out carnage against Shias in Iraq? The above are those startling revelations given in this book which, like all their past books, is a gripping thriller tale that can easily pass on as fiction if you replace characters by fictitious names. Adrian Levy & Catherine Scott Clark have used inside accounts based on their sources in the governments of Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Al-Qaeda. It is a must read book to find out how Osama's story came full circle. PS. I would suggest reading Steve Coll's Ghost wars & this book as two parts of same man's story, one written how he came to be and the other telling how he met his end.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Karen Gleister

    Hooked by a review and a podcast, I've just finished this long read, and I just could not put it down. Ultimately this is a retelling of a story that we think we know but peopled by facts and figures who are so completely different. They've taken the period and flipped it on its head and result is gripping, stupefying and occasionally astounding. I read one review that said this book had been constructed with the benefit of hindsight and was therefore a loose draft of history. But actually its s Hooked by a review and a podcast, I've just finished this long read, and I just could not put it down. Ultimately this is a retelling of a story that we think we know but peopled by facts and figures who are so completely different. They've taken the period and flipped it on its head and result is gripping, stupefying and occasionally astounding. I read one review that said this book had been constructed with the benefit of hindsight and was therefore a loose draft of history. But actually its strength is that it is had found new sources, no one has bothered to talk to or been gutsy enough to, and recorded their stories. This is so far from a hindsight driven read - it is a radical retelling, and I am sure will become the go-to book for some time to come - if you want to understand what we have all lived through since 9/11. And, as importantly, why the U.S and Iran fueled the crisis. This is not a book for military historians. It's a book for people who read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lyle Nicholson

    I enjoyed this book, however, found too many references to just about everybody Osama Bin Laden had ever dealt with. There was the detailed background on his wives, his children, including brothers in law and just about everyone else he'd ever dealt with. Trying to keep all of the numerous figures in my head as I read became exhaustive. I found I needed to skim and then skip ahead to where the action was of them actually finding Bin Laden. The details of the torture or as they called "interrogati I enjoyed this book, however, found too many references to just about everybody Osama Bin Laden had ever dealt with. There was the detailed background on his wives, his children, including brothers in law and just about everyone else he'd ever dealt with. Trying to keep all of the numerous figures in my head as I read became exhaustive. I found I needed to skim and then skip ahead to where the action was of them actually finding Bin Laden. The details of the torture or as they called "interrogation techniques," were fascinating. I had no idea the US Military practiced such things on other human beings. The book makes you wonder how far we as humans will go in our need to protect ourselves. The writing is exceptional in this book. These are two excellent authors who have researched this topic extremely well. I applaud them for their efforts, they were, as mentioned too detailed for my reading taste.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Raju

    Strats with 9/11 and ends with the infight of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the book mainly runs like a diary relating to the events happened on the life of people associated with 9/11 operation. Extensively researched with authentic information, covers the family life of Osama Bin Laden. Book Portrays Osama as staunch Mujahideen and head of Al Qaeda and also a father who wants his children both sons and daughters to be part of the Jihadi Movement. Marrying his daughters to Mujahideens and sending the sons t Strats with 9/11 and ends with the infight of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the book mainly runs like a diary relating to the events happened on the life of people associated with 9/11 operation. Extensively researched with authentic information, covers the family life of Osama Bin Laden. Book Portrays Osama as staunch Mujahideen and head of Al Qaeda and also a father who wants his children both sons and daughters to be part of the Jihadi Movement. Marrying his daughters to Mujahideens and sending the sons to the war front shows how OBL was convinced that his mission was right. Osama's stay in Pakistan for nearly more than 10 years shows how strongly the nexus is present between Pakistani establishment and Al Qaeda. OBL hand on Mumbai Blasts makes the matter more confusing. Overall, this book gives the detailed account of Al Qaeda life post 9/11 which most of the news channels fail to give.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rick

    The Exile is a book that should have quit while it was ahead. The first part of the book, while often slow, was also engaging and gave a great review of the history of Al Qadea. The involvement of Iran is new and very intense. Levy leaves it to the reader to decide if they were prisoners or were kept in country club settings that allowed them to regroup. The part that follows the tracking of Al Qaeda is interesting but could use a bit more context and fewer names. Her fascination with multiple, The Exile is a book that should have quit while it was ahead. The first part of the book, while often slow, was also engaging and gave a great review of the history of Al Qadea. The involvement of Iran is new and very intense. Levy leaves it to the reader to decide if they were prisoners or were kept in country club settings that allowed them to regroup. The part that follows the tracking of Al Qaeda is interesting but could use a bit more context and fewer names. Her fascination with multiple, sometimes very similar, names results in a muddied view of who was who and what they did. The final killing of Bin Laden seems to be a recap of Zero Dark Thirty. The follow up chapters provide us with information but don't provide much context to allow the reader to make an informed conclusion. Really long, often dull and often confusing! I'd say pass

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tushar Agrawal

    Finally finished the book. A very comprehensive work once again done by Adrian and Cathy. There are so many people discussed in the book, you are bound to get confused. So the details at the end of the book about each person discussed in the book will come in handy. The book portrays the journey of Al-Qaeda after 9/11 and how many nations and intelligence agencies in the world are still involved in this violent and bloody game of jihad. Terrorism cannot sustain on its own it requires sanctuaries, Finally finished the book. A very comprehensive work once again done by Adrian and Cathy. There are so many people discussed in the book, you are bound to get confused. So the details at the end of the book about each person discussed in the book will come in handy. The book portrays the journey of Al-Qaeda after 9/11 and how many nations and intelligence agencies in the world are still involved in this violent and bloody game of jihad. Terrorism cannot sustain on its own it requires sanctuaries, finance and sale of arms. A thoughtless method of purging people by directing bombs towards them is not going to eradicate it as well. Love the way how the writers always maintain the neutral tone in their writings and remain always factual.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Robert

    Terrific. I was a little disappointed with Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a follow-up to Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 but The Exile is what I was looking for. Terrific. I was a little disappointed with Directorate S: The C.I.A. and America's Secret Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a follow-up to Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 but The Exile is what I was looking for.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pierre

    Extremely well written and enormously detailed, this is the definitive history of Al Qaeda, 2001-2011, and its look at the Islamic State is laudable as well. It reads like a thriller, with borderline fictional descriptions at times keeping the pace oging. My issue is that it is simply too detailed, and it is difficult to follow the threads at all times. As such I was only able to dip in and out, as it didn't hold my interest to read the whole piece at once. There are passages worth delving into Extremely well written and enormously detailed, this is the definitive history of Al Qaeda, 2001-2011, and its look at the Islamic State is laudable as well. It reads like a thriller, with borderline fictional descriptions at times keeping the pace oging. My issue is that it is simply too detailed, and it is difficult to follow the threads at all times. As such I was only able to dip in and out, as it didn't hold my interest to read the whole piece at once. There are passages worth delving into in their entirety. Overall, an outstanding book for those for whom this is the most fascinating subject in the world; for the rest of us, worth a look at a few chapters, but you won't need the rest.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Brenden Sutton

    WOW! This was an eye opening tale of how the worlds most wanted and dangerous terrorist lived and how Bin Laden escaped and evaded capture for years. However, this wasn't just about the death of Bin Laden, in fact it was about the time after 9/11/01 and how he and his outfit and family evaded Government officials. I also want to say this isn't for the faint of heart especially when the book goes over the torture practices of the United States at the CIA black sites. A disturbing yet fascinating WOW! This was an eye opening tale of how the worlds most wanted and dangerous terrorist lived and how Bin Laden escaped and evaded capture for years. However, this wasn't just about the death of Bin Laden, in fact it was about the time after 9/11/01 and how he and his outfit and family evaded Government officials. I also want to say this isn't for the faint of heart especially when the book goes over the torture practices of the United States at the CIA black sites. A disturbing yet fascinating tale about the hunt for the most wanted man in the world. A high recommend for people who want to know more about counter terrorism.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Atar

    Almost every book I have read has been about Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Afghan war, Pakistan, the Iraq war, the Central Asian countries, and U.S. military & intelligence Agency's role leading to 9/11 and the subsequent turmoil in the Middle East and Central Asia but this book is different. This is what happened to Al Qaeda and Usama Bin Laden and family from the insiders perspective. Their perspective. Fabulously researched and written. It will be in my top 5 books and one I will likely re-read. Almost every book I have read has been about Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Afghan war, Pakistan, the Iraq war, the Central Asian countries, and U.S. military & intelligence Agency's role leading to 9/11 and the subsequent turmoil in the Middle East and Central Asia but this book is different. This is what happened to Al Qaeda and Usama Bin Laden and family from the insiders perspective. Their perspective. Fabulously researched and written. It will be in my top 5 books and one I will likely re-read. If you want to know how they got away, this is the book for you.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Ankur Maniar

    The length is this book's main drawback. It does'nt get your pulse racing about what happened next. The 'Manhunt' by Peter Bergen was a lot more potent commentary on the same subject. Though certainly the book is encyclopedic in its content - events, biographies of all the persons involved, descriptions of all the events. One can clearly feel the immense pain and research done to compile a book with such in-depth details. A more crisp narrative would have been more welcome though.

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