The Longest War

The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda

By Peter L. Bergen
(Free Press, Hardcover, 9780743278935, 496pp.)

Publication Date: January 11, 2011

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback, Compact Disc, MP3 CD, MP3 CD, Compact Disc

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TEN YEARS HAVE PASSED since the shocking attacks on the World Trade Center, and after seven years of conflict, the last U.S. combat troops left Iraq—only to move into Afghanistan, where the ten-year-old fight continues: the war on terror rages with no clear end in sight. In The Longest War Peter Bergen offers a comprehensive history of this war and its evolution, from the strategies devised in the wake of the 9/11 attacks to the fighting in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and beyond. Unlike any other book on this subject, here Bergen tells the story of this shifting war’s failures and successes from the perspectives of both the United States and al-Qaeda and its allies. He goes into the homes of al-Qaeda members, rooting into the source of their devotion to terrorist causes, and spends time in the offices of the major players shaping the U.S. strategic efforts in the region. At a time when many are frustrated or fatigued with what has become an enduring multigenerational conflict, this book will provide an illuminating narrative that not only traces the arc of the fight but projects its likely future.

Weaving together internal documents from al-Qaeda and the U.S. offices of counterterrorism, first-person interviews with top-level jihadists and senior Washington officials, along with his own experiences on the ground in the Middle East, Bergen balances the accounts of each side, revealing how al-Qaeda has evolved since 9/11 and the specific ways the U.S. government has responded in the ongoing fight.

Bergen also uncovers the strategic errors committed on both sides—the way that al-Qaeda’s bold attack on the United States on 9/11 actually undermined its objective and caused the collapse of the Taliban and the destruction of the organization’s safe haven in Afghanistan, and how al-Qaeda is actually losing the war of ideas in the Muslim world. The book also shows how the United States undermined its moral position in this war with its actions at Guantánamo and coercive interrogations—including the extraordinary rendition of Abu Omar, who was kidnapped by the CIA in Milan in 2003 and was tortured for four years in Egyptian prisons; his case represents the first and only time that CIA officials have been charged and convicted of the crime of kidnapping.

In examining other strategic blunders the United States has committed, Bergen offers a scathing critique of the Clinton and Bush administrations’ inability to accurately assess and counter the al-Qaeda threat, Bush’s deeply misguided reasons for invading Iraq—including the story of how the invasion was launched based, in part, on the views of an obscure academic who put forth theories about Iraq’s involvement with al-Qaeda—and the Obama administration’s efforts in Afghanistan.

At a critical moment in world history The Longest War provides the definitive account of the ongoing battle against terror.

About the Author

Peter Bergen is the author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama Bin Laden I Know, both named among the best nonfiction books of the year by The Washington Post. He is a contributing editor at The New Republic and has worked as a correspondent for National Geographic television, Discovery, and CNN. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Foreign Affairs, Atlantic, Rolling Stone, Time, Vanity Fair, among other publications.

Tuesday, Aug 2, 2011

CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen just returned from Pakistan, where he visited the town where Osama bin Laden was killed. He talks about the various conspiracy theories surrounding bin Laden's death � and how al-Qaida has changed in recent years. More at

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Thursday, Jan 13, 2011

In the nearly 10 years since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden remains on the run. In The Longest War, Peter Bergen gives a comprehensive account of the development of al-Qaida and the U.S. response to the terrorist organization. He talks about the strategic missteps on both sides. More at

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Praise For The Longest War

"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."--Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

"The Longest War is Mr. Bergen's magnum opuse. essential reading.e --The Washington Times

eoeFor years, I tried to read every new novel about how 9/11 affected our lives. Some were very thoughtful, but I always came away unsatisfied, feeling that the authors had worked hard but had somehow fallen short. As I read the stunning first section of Peter L. Bergene(TM)s new book on the war between the United States and Al Qaeda, I realized I had been looking in the wrong genre. None of the novels were as effective or moving as eoeThe Longest War,e which is a history of our time. e eoeThe Longest Ware is one of the most important accounts on the subject to appear in years. But be warned: You will read it and weep.e
e"Thomas E. Ricks, The New York Times Book Review

eoeHis important history of the war on terrorisme.The greatest strength of The Longest War is that it provides a detailed history of what has occurred since al-Qaeda first appeared on the terrorist scene. Uniquely, it tells the history from three sides: the Americans involved in prosecuting the war; ordinary Muslims, the vast majority of whom remain unmoved by bin Laden's siren call; and the many terrorists and sympathizers whom Bergen has sought out in the field or whose voluminous writings he expertly synthesizes. The Longest War is also a very good read.e --Washington Post

eoeThe Longest War is ambitious both in scope and aimseyou need to understand al-Qaida, and Bergen, with this detailed, serious, scrupulously fair, perceptive and sometimes startling work has made a significant contribution to us doing exactly that.e --The Guardian

e The Longest War is by far the best and most comprehensive book on the conflict so far.e --Sunday Times

eoeA grippingly important work that belongs on the shelf alongside The Looming Tower and Ghost Wars.e ---The Daily Beast

"The Longest Waris his history of a daunting subject that succeeds where other books have failed. That's because the author was one of the few people onto al-Qaeda years before the instant experts cropped up. And he is still there watching, long after most of those so-called experts packed it in and moved on."--The Globe and Mail

eoeA revelatory, pull-no-punches history of the War on Terror, from before 9/11 to the present dayeOne of the deepest and most disturbing investigations of one of the defining issues of our era.e e"Kirkus, starred review

eoeDrawing on vast firsthand knowledge of the region and mining a huge stock of primary and secondary material, including his own interviews with combatants, the booke(TM)s depth of detail and breadth of insight make it one of the more useful analysis of the ongoing conflict.e e"Publishers Weekly, starred review

e~In The Longest War Bergen attempts to provide us with an overarching narrative of the first ten years of the epic struggle that resulted from the 9/11 attacks, and he does an admirable job of it.e e"Christian Caryl, The Washington Monthly

eoe[a] readable and well-reported appraisale e"The Economist

eoe"The Longest War" is a useful synopsis of the struggle we've come to call the war on terror, and he chronicles it with the keen eye of an experienced journalist and on-the-ground observer. Bergen, who actually has interviewed Bin Laden and is the author of two books on him, gives a particularly good view of Al Qaedae(TM)s operative behavior e" ite(TM)s much more bureaucratic than you might imagine e" as well as a gripping re-creation of what went wrong at Tora Bora, the last opportunity the U.S. had to apprehend or kill Bin Laden.e e"LA Times

eoePeter Bergen has long since established himself as Americae(TM)s most authoritative and insightful analyst on Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, and time and again has given the nation an unblinking glimpse into the mind of the enemy.Now, with The Longest War, he has performed perhaps his greatest public service with what is certainly the finest comprehensive history of the war on terror yet written. Weaving together the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the broader anti-terror campaigns of Bush and Obama, he does something nearly impossible. He explains how we got here from 9/11.e
--James Risen, author of State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration

eoeWhen the War on Terror is consigned to the history books, one name will dominate as the steady, clear-eyed chronicler of that period. Peter Bergen was among the first to note the rise of al-Qaeda, and he is still on the case. The Longest War is a vital and essential account of the central conflict of our times.e
--Lawrence Wright, author of The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11

eoePeter Bergene(TM)s The Longest War is indispensable history. Authoritative and ambitious, it provides a damning account of the fitful fight against Islamic terrorism that every American should read.e
e"Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side: How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals

"Peter Bergen has produced a masterful, definitive assessment of Al-Qaeda and America since September 11 - rich with new details, elevated by careful analysis, and quickened by riveting characters and stories. This is essential reading."--Steve Coll, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author of Ghost Wars and The Bin Ladens

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