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The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  533 ratings  ·  63 reviews
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,
Paperback, 496 pages
Published June 28th 2011 by Free Press (first published January 1st 2011)
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I first saw Peter Bergen doing an interview on CNN at some point in the months following 9-11, as he had met with and interviewed Osama bin Laden in 1997 and was thus considered an informed voice regarding this lean and ascetic man of whom most people had previously been little aware but were now eager to learn all that they could. So over a decade ago he already had the authority of an old hand when it came to Central Asia, which was the primary factor that motivated me to pluck The Longest War ...more
The Longest War is a very good overview of the "War on Terror" until 2010. It's well sourced and researched, and the author's prose makes the book an easy read. However, my expectations for the book were higher than my impression after reading it. Based on Bergen's amazing career and background, I was expecting unique and thoughtful insights. While there are strong chapters (specifically on AQ WMD), generally the story presented comes in the form of highlights on major aspects of the past decade ...more
For a comprehensive and up-to-date (as of January 2011) review of the past couple of decades that al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have been terrorizing the world, you can't go wrong with Peter Bergen's The Longest War. The author produced bin Laden's first television interview for CNN back in 1997, in which bin Laden declared war on the United States, so I guess we had been warned. Mr. Bergen's journalistic skills are evident as he pieces the story together in such a way as to reveal the truth abou ...more
Ed Wagemann
Living in the Age of Information means that The American history books chronicling the first decade of the 21st century are already being written—and they are not looking too kindly upon The Bush Administrations and their War On Terror. Peter Bergen’s account of the War On Terror depicts George W. Bush as an incompetent baffoon surrounded by a bunch of callous agenda-driven Dr. Evil types (Cheney, Rumsfeldt, Wolfowitz, etc) who are completely clueless in regard to what effect their actions and p ...more
Jimmy Bohnslav
There's not much new gound being broken in this book, to my knowledge--it's an extremely well-researched recap of the War on Terror. Peter Bergen is very knowledgeable on this subject, and at one point even interviewed bin Laden himself. Some of the low reviews are likely fans of President Bush--Bergen pulls no punches on the effects of Bush's and his advisers' preoccupation with Iraq. He describes how the focus on Iraq was part of the reason we let the senior Al'Qaeda leadership escape from Tor ...more
Scott Martin
Read this book for research. A solid attempt to summerize and explain the long standing engagements between Al-Qaida and the US from 1998 to 2011. The book was published right before the eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden. Bergen uses his expertise and observations to try to make some sense of the longest continuous conflict the US has found itself in since the Vietnam War (one can make the argument for the various conflicts between the Native American tribes and the European settlers from the ...more
Darryl Mexic
This nonfiction book by Peter Bergen is nothing short of terrific. He has, per the index and bibliography, done a fantastic amount of research and conducted interviews with over 200 people, to give the reader interested in our country’s war against al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated like minded jihadist terrorist-practicing organizations, everything we could ask for other than some probably still highly secret information. From the late 80’s to 2010, when the book was finished, we are treate ...more
Mal Warwick
Thoughts on reading The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda, by Peter Bergen

The Longest War is a slow read, because I find myself glowering, grumbling, and occasionally shrieking as I come across passage after passage that reveals the utter incompetence and willful ignorance of George W. Bush and his cronies in the run-up to 9/11, the conduct of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and their continuing failure to understand the most basic realities about Al-Qaeda as the
Will Byrnes
In a recent interview on The Daily Show, Peter Bergen said, “Al Qaeda is going to fade to irrelevance over time.” ( One of the main points of The Longest War is his argument in support of that statement.

Bergen has been on the scene for quite a while. In addition to his prior books, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden and The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader, he produced the first television interview w
An opinionated but informative history of America's conflict with al-Qaeda up until January of 2011. I'm sure Bergen now wishes publication had been delayed about five months.

Although falling short of being a comprehensive history, the book does do a good job of shedding greater light on largely misunderstood events and helps to put incidents generally reported in isolation in their larger context. If anything I have a much better perspective on the chronological progression, which has grown ha
David Rathel
1) This book is an excellent summary of America's engagement with Al Qaeda since the late '90's. Bergen draws extensively from his personal interviews with both US and Al Qaeda leaders in order to paint a rather complete picture of what has occurred over the past decade.

2) While nothing particularly new is revealed in this book, it is helpful to have all of the events of the past decade compiled together in one complete narrative. The 24-hour news cycle of the American press frequently prevents
Peter Bergen indicts the Bush Administration for their decisions in launching the Global War On Terror. This book has convinced me that the American people were sold a bill of goods - so many of the "reasons" and "justifications' for attacking Iraq have been proven to be utterly false (WMD, Terrorism). What was really disappointing to learn was that our senior leaders KNEW that their justifications were not true and yet they persisted in the was in Iraq and Afghanistan!

What a waste of blood.

I was looking forward to this mainly as a recap to how the "al-Qaeda portion" of the War on Terror has progressed since 9/11.I wasn't expecting anything new, and this was a pretty easy read. The recap of how al-Qaeda formed is wholly unnecessary if you have read The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. One interesting revelation is that not all of bin Laden's cohorts agreed with bin Laden's decision to attack the Towers and Pentagon. Bin Laden believed that the US would simply fire more ...more
Peter Bergen wraps up his reporting on terrorism and the wars in the Middle East from the 9/11 attacks in 2001 through through the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011. While most of the bloody story is familiar to anyone who can read a newspaper, or anyone who still does, Bergen adds some unfamiliar details only a superb and brave reporter could know. Everbody knows about the memo warning Condoleeza Rice and the President the Bin Laden was going to attack, but Bergen shows that there was a long ...more
Truth be told, I feel a bit guilty that I even had to read this book. Of course, like everyone else, I've lived through the last decade of our "War on Terror" and everything that includes - Iraq, Afghanistan, Al Quada, Bin Laden, the GWOT, London's 7/7 bombings, domestic terror threats, and of course 9/11 itself. And i consider myself reasonable well-informed on current events. But as you watch the news, read a newspaper, or God forbid live these events and their repercussions, it's hard to real ...more
I haven't reviewed any books in a while because I was busy reading The Longest War--or the longest book, amirite? This book made worthwhile, but slow, reading. It analyzes the disparate threads of the "Global War on Terror," with individual chapters related to issues like post-9/11 bombing plots, the surge in Iraq, Pakistan's porous borders, and so forth. These themes don't always hold together, but that serves to reflect the GWOT as the ill-conceived hodgepodge that it was (and is). The author ...more
Bergen gives a suitable precis to where the so-called war on terror stood until Syria became the "new Afghanistan." His insight into the rush to war in Iraq, in the works in some form even before 9/11, are illuminating and incredibly frustrating, but it's his critique of al-Qaida as an organization--complete with personnel issues, mission statements, strategies, and missteps--that really distinguish it from the bulk of other texts on the subject.
"What you don't often see in the news from Afghanistan is how lovely a place it can be. The city of Kabul sits six thousand feet above sea level and is rimmed by snow-tipped mountains. In spring the warming sun sends soft winds during the day and at night a pleasant chill begins to descend with dusk and muezzin's call to prayer. And as night falls it's possible to remember that in the 1970's, before the series of wars that wrecked Afghanistan, Kabul was a major pit stop on the hippie trail to In ...more
Clara Roberts
I expected to read about 9/11 and the suceeding conflict. What I got was a whitewash of Clinton and a vindictive reaction to anything the Bush Admin. did to keep America safe. When he talks about the 9/11 commission he absolves the Clinton Admin. of any responsibility. He fails to say that the five Democrats on the commission included Jamie Gorelik, a Clinton appointment(Justice Dept) whose ruling prevented FBI and CIA talking to each other. Then there was the hyper partisan lawyer Richard Ben-V ...more
Terri Pickett
Fantastic, thorough, well-researched and organized, immensely readable. Honestly, I expected to tire of this book quickly and/or skim through much of it but found myself reading every word. Bergen's skilled use of quotes, irony, sarcasm and even humor turn what could have been dense information and research into something of a story. So many blanks have been filled in for me about 9/11, Al Qaeda and the US response to each. Bergen doesn't hide his political leanings but backs up every point he m ...more
Keith McGowan
Quite a few books have claimed to write about "the longest war." Bergen does a masterful job of pulling together the twists and turns of America's was against al Qaeda. He does not hide his bias against the Bush phase of the war nor does he pull any punches on Obama's efforts. Perhaps somewhat premature as this war continues and may continue forever.
Bergen details the war against Al-Qaeda with the stopover in Iraq. He explains the key players, their decisions and the consequences of their assumptions.

Why I started it: Having just read Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq I wanted to learn more about Afghanistan.

Why I finished it: I had to take this is small doses. It's a good thing that I don't have an assault rifle and a time machine. Hearing about policy decisions can be so frustrating. It was really interesti
Elizabeth Sulzby
A very important book on Al Qaeda and OBL. Bergen gives a very detailed history of the relationship among the Shia, Sunni, and the Kurds. One of his points was that, in Hussein's Iraq many communities were "integrated," Shia and Sunni families sharing the same neighborhood. He emphasized the results of US'incompetence in starting the war without understanding the ethnic/religious history and contemporary situation; allowing looting of weapons caches and labs capable of making WMD without securit ...more
Frank Kelly
Peter Bergen has probably done more to help the West understand Al Qaeda, their intentions, their thinking, their way of life. In his latest book, Bergen reviews in vivid detail Al Quada's strategy (and devolution into tactics as opposed to sticking to the strategy) along with the West's (mostly the US's) strategic efforts to destroy and dismantle the organization. Bergen's research is stellar -- he covers the broadest possible swath of participants possible on both sides of the fight. Now that ...more
Finally, a well-balanced and thorough primer on America's long-standing war with Al Qaeda!! Bergen does a terrific job of laying out the basics here, from OBL's declaration of war back in the 1990's through to the first two years of decisionmaking during the Obama administration. His argument is clear and concise: the US has made grievous errors in regards to al Qaeda, but AQ has made even worse decisions, and has lost much of its appeal (although this does not mean, Bergen is quick to point out ...more
This is a good summary of the War on Terror by a leading US journalist, who is one of the few to have interviewed bin Laden himself. None of the protagonists comes out well in this analysis, and Bergen submits that it has been a strategic failure on both sides. Bin Laden made a bad mistake in provoking the Leviathan of America to destroy his base in Afghanistan and the US, in turn, made the fatal mistake of invading Iraq, on spurious grounds, after first letting Bin Laden escape from the mountai ...more
Chris Walker
A good read for those struggling to understand the rise of Al-Qaeda and wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now out of date with the death of bin Laden, the book however makes the point that the death of the leader does not mean the death of the leader's ideas. The growth of home grown terrorism in western nations since 9/11 has to be the scariest aspect. The author dismisses water boarding as not only against the Geneva Convention but also ineffective compared with ordinary forms of interrogation. Ho ...more
An opinionated but well-researched account of the "War on Terror" thus far. My biggest complaint is that the author often draws conclusions without fairly treating all sides of the debate. He is not very even-handed when discussing the worldview of the Bush administration's National Security Council, for example, and I don't think his portrayal of the intelligence community is always fair. Nevertheless, this is a good review of the important events (including some not very well known) in the War ...more
This read like a novel for a movie, which is to say, excellent reading and story-telling. The multitude of research Peter Bergen did for this book ended up taking about 1/3 of the book in reference pages. I am not surprised the amount of time and energy that was experienced by our government/military/CIA, etc. over the past 10 years to find Osama bin Laden, but reading about all the ins and outs, including the capture/killing, was very interesting. I have read other books by Peter Bergen and the ...more
Good historical perspective of the islamic terrorist activity and the poor America's response ability to cope with the menace.
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Peter Bergen (born 1962) is an American born, England-raised print and television journalist, author, and CNN's national security analyst. Bergen produced the first television interview with Osama Bin Laden in 1997. The interview, which aired on CNN, marked the first time that bin Laden declared war against the United States to a Western audience. Bergen has written several books including: Holy W ...more
More about Peter L. Bergen...
Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--from 9/11 to Abbottabad Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda's Leader Talibanistan: Negotiating the Borders Between Terror, Politics, and Religion JAGTEN PÅ OSAMA - ti år i hælene på Bin Laden

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“So the insurgency was born in a perfect storm of American errors--not establishing order; not providing the semblance of any government; confirming to the Sunnis who had once lorded it over Iraq's Shia majority that they were officially the underdogs; and throwing hundreds of thousands of soldiers onto the streets in an economy where the jobless rate was around 50 percent, while simultaneously ensuring that there was an unlimited supply of weaponry at hand for those angry young men.” 0 likes
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