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Manhunt by Peter Bergen

CNN National Security Analyst Peter Bergen writes definitive account of ten-year search for Osama Bin Laden

Manhunt by Peter Bergen
  • On sale: January 1, 1970
  • Price: $
  • ISBN: 9780307955579
Contact: Penny Simon

Published to coincide with the first anniversary of bin Laden’s death, MANHUNT is based on unprecedented interviews with key players and exclusive access to bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound before it was demolished

• • • •

“Don’t turn on the light.” These were the last words bin Laden would ever utter. It was a moonless night, there were strange sounds of explosions, and bin Laden and his youngest wife were effectively trapped in the third-floor bedroom of his fortress-like compound. As the SEALs climbed the stairs, bin Laden opened the metal gate that blocked access to his room—a gate that could only be opened from the inside—and poked his head out to see what the commotion was. It was a fatal error. He would die with a “double tap” of shots to the chest and his left eye. It was May 1, 2011.

In MANHUNT: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad (on sale May 1), CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen—America’s foremost writer on counterterrorism—offers an unforgettable, panoramic, inside account of how bin Laden was brought to justice. The book is the result of exhaustive research, unprecedented interviews with key players, and exclusive access to the Abbottabad compound in which bin Laden lived his final years. In fact, Bergen was the only outsider to tour the compound before it was destroyed by the Pakistani military. He is also one of only two journalists given access by the White House to the “treasure trove” of materials collected there.

Bergen’s account of the raid itself is riveting, but it is only one element of a decade-long story that began on September 12, 2001. Where did bin Laden hide after the 9/11 attacks, and how did he evade capture? What blind avenues did the CIA travel, and what clues finally led them to him? How did the SEALs prepare for Operation Neptune Spear? Why did President Obama decide to proceed with the raid despite the recommendations of two of his top three advisors—Vice President Biden and Defense Secretary Robert Gates—that he not do so?

In a sense, Peter Bergen has been preparing to write this book ever since he met bin Laden in the middle of the night in a mud hut in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan in early 1997. In the course of that interview bin Laden surprised Bergen by declaring war on the United States on camera, the first time he had done so before a Western audience. To report MANHUNT, Bergen spoke to a variety of Pakistani security and military officials who investigated the SEAL raid and who debriefed bin Laden’s wives and children. On the U.S. side, he spoke to almost every senior official at the White House, Defense Department, CIA, State Department, National Counterterrorism Center, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was responsible for building and assessing the intelligence on bin Laden, weighing the possible courses of action in response to the suspected bin Laden compound, and overseeing the execution of the raid. Many are quoted by name, but several could not be quoted directly due to the sensitivity of aspects of the mission.

The result is an exciting and authoritative account of the search for the world’s most wanted man. Bergen recounts the initial failures of the hunt for bin Laden, including the Battle of Tora Bora, where U.S. forces came close to capturing him only to see him slip away; the period of time when CIA resources and energy were redirected toward the Iraq War; and the closing of the specialized bin Laden unit at CIA headquarters in 2005. In 2006, however, things turned around when Operation Cannonball put more American spies in Pakistan, and a group of tenacious analysts in the HVT (high-value target) section of the CIA—many of them women, despite the hypermasculine culture of the Agency—took a fresh look at all the clues to bin Laden’s whereabouts. When, in 2009, a number of CIA employees and contractors were killed by an al-Qaeda suicide bomber posing as an informant, the Agency redoubled its focus on finding its nemesis.

As the hunt for bin Laden turns from cold to hot, MANHUNT turns into a thriller. When the courier dubbed “the Kuwaiti” leads investigators to the compound, the CIA establishes a safe house in Abbottabad, and a period of intense surveillance begins. How, though, to confirm that the man who walks in tight circles in the kitchen garden each afternoon, shielded from view, is bin Laden? While some evidence suggests that it’s him, other evidence raises doubts—from the existence of a dog at the compound (many observant Muslims consider dogs unclean) to the comings and goings of the women and children, a risk no one imagines bin Laden would take. At one point, CIA official Michael Morell tells the president that “the circumstantial case of Iraq having WMD was actually stronger than the circumstantial case that bin Laden is living in the Abbottabad compound.” As Admiral McRaven develops scenarios for an assault on the compound, the CIA presses to find definitive evidence that this is the man they’ve been looking for and considers whether to involve Pakistan or risk damaging the U.S.-Pakistani alliance. Weeks later, in the White House Situation Room, President Obama considers the courses of action presented by his war council and receives conflicting advice from his top advisors before deciding to risk the raid. Bergen takes us inside that tense meeting, and along for the ride as the Black Hawk helicopters take off and White House officials monitor the raid in real time. “This was like any episode of 24 or any movie you could ever imagine,” says Secretary Clinton. When the SEALs burst into the compound and bin Laden utters his last words, we feel as if we are in the room.

In closing, MANHUNT looks at bin Laden’s legacy, including where his death leaves al-Qaeda. “By the time bin Laden was killed, al-Qaeda was an ideological ‘brand’ long past its sell-by date and an organization in deep trouble,” Bergen says. “Bin Laden’s successor is unlikely to turn things around, U.S. drone strikes continue to decimate the bench of al-Qaeda’s commanders, and the popular revolts against the authoritarian regimes in the Middle East make it unlikely that al-Qaeda will be able to grab the reins of power.”

“Just as we cannot understand why the French army risked marching to Moscow during the frigid Russian winter of 1812 without comprehending the ambitions of Napoleon, we cannot understand al-Qaeda or 9/11 without Osama bin Laden,” Bergen writes. MANHUNT offers a penetrating analysis of bin Laden’s leadership and strategic thinking, and an edge-of-your-seat account of the most intensive and expensive manhunt of all time.

About the Author

PETER BERGEN is the author of three previous books about Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, two of which were New York Times bestsellers. He is CNN’s national security analyst and a director of the New America Foundation. Bergen has held teaching positions at Harvard and at Johns Hopkins University and is a graduate of Oxford. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife, documentary producer Tresha Mabile, and their son.

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