Al Qaeda is the most dangerous terrorist movement in history. Yet most people in the Americas and Europe know very little about it, or their view is clouded by misperceptions and half truths. If the first rule of war is to “know your enemy,” then we have a long way to go. This important book fills this gap with a comprehensive analysis of al Qaeda—the origins, leadership, ideology, and strategy of the terrorist network that brought down the Twin Towers and continues to threaten us today. Bruce Riedel is an expert on the Middle East and South Asia, with thirty years of intelligence and policymaking experience. He was actually in the White House Situation Room during the 9/11 attacks, serving as special assistant to the president and National Security Council senior director for Near East Affairs. He draws on this insider experience in profiling the four most important figures in the al Qaeda movement: Osama bin Laden, its creator and charismatic leader; ideologue Ayman Zawahiri, its Egyptian coleader and principal spokesman; Abu Musaib al Zarqawi, leader of al Qaeda in Iraq until his death in 2006; and Mullah Omar, its Taliban host. These profiles provide the base from which Riedel delivers a much clearer understanding of al Qaeda and what must be done to counter it. The Search for al Qaeda reviews how al Qaeda was created and developed, presenting authoritative and chilling background on “The Manhattan Raid,” but Riedel focuses more closely on what has happened to it since that awful day. He outlines al Qaeda’s ultimate goals, which are to drive America out of the Muslim world, to destroy Israel, and to create a jihadist caliphate larger than the Ottoman Empire at its height. The profiles and subsequent analysis reveal the network’s multipronged strategy for accomplishing those goals: • Draw America into “bleeding wars” like the one that drove the Soviets from Afghanistan. • Build a safe haven for al Qaeda in Pakistan. • Develop other “franchises” in the Islamic world that can overthrow pro-American regimes. • Conduct more Western attacks along the lines of 9/11 or the transit bombings in Madrid and London. The book concludes with a strategy for dealing with—and defeating—this most dangerous menace.
October 3, 2023
11:00 am - 12:00 pm EDT
Bruce Riedel is a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy program and the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution. He served in the U.S. intelligence community for nearly thirty years, and at the request of President Obama, he chaired an interagency review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan for the White House that was completed in March 2009.