The Untold Story of America's Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda
Publication Date: August 16, 2011
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Inside the Pentagon's secretive and revolutionary new strategy to fight terrorism--and its game-changing effects in the Middle East and at home
In the years following the 9/11 attacks, the United States waged a "war on terror" that sought to defeat Al Qaeda through brute force. But it soon became clear that this strategy was not working, and by 2005 the Pentagon began looking for a new way.
In Counterstrike, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker of The New York Times tell the story of how a group of analysts within the military, at spy agencies, and in law enforcement has fashioned an innovative and effective new strategy to fight terrorism, unbeknownst to most Americans and in sharp contrast to the cowboy slogans that characterized the U.S. government's public posture. Adapting themes from classic Cold War deterrence theory, these strategists have expanded the field of battle in order to disrupt jihadist networks in ever more creative ways.
Schmitt and Shanker take readers deep into this theater of war, as ground troops, intelligence operatives, and top executive branch officials have worked together to redefine and restrict the geography available for Al Qaeda to operate in. They also show how these new counterterrorism strategies, adopted under George W. Bush and expanded under Barack Obama, were successfully employed in planning and carrying out the dramatic May 2011 raid in which Osama bin Laden was killed.
Filled with startling revelations about how our national security is being managed, Counterstrike will change the way Americans think about the ongoing struggle with violent radical extremism.
Eric Schmitt is a terrorism correspondent for The New York Times and has embedded with troops in Iraq, Somalia, and Pakistan. Schmitt has twice been a member of Times reporting teams that were awarded the Pulitzer Prize.
Thom Shanker, a Pentagon correspondent for The New York Times, routinely spends time embedded with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Shanker was formerly a foreign editor and correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, based in Moscow, Berlin, and Sarajevo.
America's anti-terrorism strategy has evolved in the years after the Sept. 11 attacks. New York Times reporters Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt explain some of the tactics used by the United States over the past decade to disrupt al-Qaida both in real life and online. More at NPR.org
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"Insightful… Counterstrike… is not just another book about Sept. 11, Iraq or Afghanistan. Rather, it focuses on the various military and civilian agency responses to terrorism [with a] strong portrayal of the many unheralded United States victories…. Americans should take comfort in this book’s reminder that their government can adapt to meet threats as they change, keeping them safer—if not necessarily safe—from terrorism."—Daniel Byman, The New York Times
"There is a flood of 9/11 books now coming onto the market, but Counterstrike by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker of the New York Times should be atop the list of anyone curious about how the U.S. government has grappled with the challenges posed by al Qaeda."—Time.com
"Counterstrike’ provides a detailed look at the changes that have occurred and the personalities behind those decisions, as well as the complicated global chessboard of terror networks and sympathetic governments that made adaptation so vital."—The Boston Globe
"This eye-opening account of how the U.S. government has vastly upgraded its counterterrorism efforts since Sept. 11 reminds readers that while the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliates persists, so does the American will to strike back."—Joshua Sinai, The Washington Times
"In Counterstrike, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, reporters for the New York Times, warn that another catastrophic terrorist event is inevitable, but their behind-the-scenes account of the evolution of U.S. counterterrorism strategy gives officials the highest marks… Counterstrike is a glowing portrayal of the American intelligence community."— Robert D. Crews, San Francisco Chronicle
"Masterful … A fast paced, gripping story… A well reported, well written dive into the arcane world of counterterrorism over the past decade… [Counterstrike] is a significant contribution to our body of knowledge regarding our campaign thus far in the ‘Long War’ against al-Qaeda and affiliated groups."— Michael Waltz, Foreign Policy
"A must read… After ten years of conflict comes a book that, with amazing clarity, tells how the strategy for the "War on Terror" has dramatically evolved… The authors capture the successes, the failures, the opportunities and the still-lingering gaps over the past decade and look ahead to the nation’s future challenges."—Military.com
"The book [Counterstrike] sheds light on offensive U.S. cyber operations almost never discussed by U.S. officials."—Bloomberg.com
"New York Times correspondents Schmitt and Shanker review events after 9/11, focusing on government and military counterterrorism experts who convinced administration ideologues to switch gears… [A] reassuring argument that, after an expensive and massive effort, terrorism seems on the decline."—Kirkus Reviews
"A remarkable detective story by two of the nation’s best reporters. With meticulous research and fine storytelling, Counterstrike reveals who, what, when, where, and why in describing the long campaign by the United States government to demolish Al Qaeda and ultimately to kill Osama bin Laden."--Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of An Army at Dawn
"Counterstrike lays bare the provocative new ideas that are driving the war on terrorism. Generals often talk about changing the hearts and minds of people in faraway lands, but Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker reveal the importance of changing the hearts and minds of America’s defense strategists. This is a groundbreaking intellectual history that is also a great read."--Jessica Stern, author of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill
"Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker dig deep to tell the story of the covert campaign to defeat Al Qaeda, from the CIA to the Pentagon. Counterstrike is a richly reported work that is a seminal account of the battle between America and Al Qaeda since 9/11."--Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda
"Filled with amazing characters and details, Counterstrike traces the evolution of America’s strategy for stopping the next attack. It’s a fascinating story and a great read, too."--Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War
"Counterstrike scores a direct hit. Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, two of America’s most respected national security correspondents, provide pathbreaking reporting on and incisive analysis of the secret war against Al Qaeda after 9/11. This cogent history of America’s elusive search for a strategy – essential reading for specialists and concerned citizens alike – should inform our national debate on how best to counter this most urgent threat."-- Lee H. Hamilton, former congressman and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission
"Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker have written a brilliant and important account of America’s battle with Al Qaeda. It is an exceptional work in that it truly addresses strategic issues and not just the tactical fight. There are critical insights and recommendations provided in this book that make it a must-read for all those who want to understand how we must deal with this complex threat."--General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (retired)