Articles

When I visited Osama bin Laden’s former base in Tora Bora little more than a year ago, I climbed steep, scree-covered slopes to reach his Afghan house, perched high above the snow line and commanding views of verdant valleys several thousand feet below. The hamlet, known as Milawa, comprised several lookout posts strung out along ridge lines, a bakery, bin Laden’s two-bedroom house and even a crude swimming pool, all of which had been destroyed by U.S. air strikes in December 2001. It is a place where bin Laden seems to have been very happy. He once told Abdel Bari Atwan, a Palestinian journalist, “I really enjoy my life when I’m here. I feel secure in this place.”

After four years on the run, Osama Bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, is nowhere to be found. So rather than answer the $50m question, “Where is Osama?”, journalist and terrorism expert Peter Bergen decided to take the easier option of finding out, “Who is Osama?”. As one of the few westerners ever to have met the Al-Qaeda leader face to face, he was well placed to do this.

For all their disagreements about whether Osama Bin Laden is an Islamofascist, an anti-imperialist or a religious nut who wants to restore the Islamic caliphate, almost all of those involved in the terrorism debate agree on one thing: that Bin Laden is a passionate guy with rock-hard beliefs. Those of a pro-war persuasion who consider Qaeda operatives to be “Islamofascists” imagine that Bin Laden must really, really hate Jews and Christians. Those of an anti-war persuasion who describe Bin Laden as “anti-imperialist” imagine that he must really, really oppose the US. And those who prefer a strictly religious explanation think Bin Laden is really, really committed to imposing sharia law on Muslim lands, if not the whole world. Such explanations have in common a perception that Bin Laden is a driven individual with a formidable programme that he will stop at nothing to implement. I mean, anyone who is willing to rough it in a cave in Pakistan, Waziristan or Wherever-istan, despite having a fortune of millions, and who sends young men to blow up themselves and scores of civilians, must really believe in what he is doing – right?

When the Arabic news network al-Jazeera broadcast a new audiotape believed to be from Osama bin Laden on Thursday, it gave us the first evidence we’ve had in 13 months that the al Qaeda leader still lives. Safely distanced from tell-tale telephones and e-mails that could be used to track him, he may now be giving broad guidance to his followers via a “Pony Express” of trusted couriers. Or he may have fled to a country other than Afghanistan or Pakistan, where he’s most frequently said to be lurking. One thing he is definitely not, however, is caught, “dead or alive,” at the instructions of President George W. Bush.

Sunday, Feb 19, 2006 Miami Herald review of OBL I KNow

The world’s most wanted and deadly terrorist worries about public relations, watches Larry King Live and carefully cultivates the image of soft-spoken, thoughtful cleric. But he has no real strategy left — just the tactic of extreme violence. And while he may be a legend in the Muslim world after overseeing the 9/11 attacks that killed 3,000 Americans, he also miscalculated the impact of those attacks and has become a divisive figure among even Muslim radicals.

When Osama bin Laden speaks, people listen. They tend, however, to hear different things. Take the coverage of his latest voice-from-the-mountain tape, released in mid-January. The New York Times and The Washington Post both headlined with the words “Bin Laden Warns of Attacks.” The equivalent two highbrow Arabic-language newspapers, al-Hayat and al-Sharq al-Awsat, led instead with the news that the al-Qaeda leader had offered a truce.

Book Review by Mohammed Alkhereiji CNN terror analyst and author of Holy War, Inc, Peter Bergen presents a comprehensive portrayal of the world’s most wanted Terrorist; Osama Bin Laden. The Biography titled “THE OSAMA BIN LADEN I KNOW” is a chronological record of everything that is known and documented about the Al-Qaeda leader. The book […]

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, the mastermind and leader of al Qaeda, has become a household name. Yet few people know many facts about this elusive figure. Bergen (terrorism analyst, CNN; Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden) has reported on al Qaeda for more than a decade.

“The Osama Bin Laden I Know,” from CNN’s terrorism analyst Peter Bergen (Free Press, $26), is based on interviews with those who have met al Qaeda’s leader, and it brings together a treasure trove of information and documents about the man and the movement. Bergen has organized the book in such a way that you understand bin Laden’s roots, his motivations and his aims as his story unfolds. Accounts from childhood friends, former jihadi colleagues and even bin Laden’s bodyguards are mixed with bin Laden’s own words.

What is the most significant thing about the new tape from your point of view?

Well, the most obvious message is that Osama bin Laden is alive and well, which is something I personally believed anyway because there was no evidence that he was dead. There was a lot of ill-informed speculation that he was dead because we hadn’t heard from him in a year. But of course there was a precedent for that. He came out at the time of his choosing.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Wednesday, September, 26, 2018 Global SOF Symposium, Madrid, Spain

Wednesday, October, 03, 2018 Counterterrorism in 2020: Future prospects and challenges, Univ of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Monday, October, 15, 2018 Chief Executives Org, DC

Tuesday, November, 13, 2018 Proxy warfare conference, Global SOF, New America, ASU, New America DC

Wednesday, January, 23, 2019 We Want to Negotiate, Joel, Simon, Newseum DC

Thursday, February, 14, 2019 IDEX conf, Abu Dhabi, UAE

Tuesday, March, 05, 2019 Global SOF Forum, Tampa, Florida

Wednesday, March, 06, 2019 Suli Forum, Sulaymaniyah, Iraq

Monday, April, 29, 2019 Future of War conf. ASU/New America DC

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RECENT FILMS

2017

LEGION OF BROTHERS, CNN Films

2016

"We Got Him": President Obama, Bin Laden, and the Future of the War on Terror, CNN

2016

Homegrown: The Counter-Terror Dilemma, HBO

ALL FILMS »