Book Review: Manhunt: From 9/11 to Abbottabad - the Ten-Year Search for Osama Bin Laden (Peter Bergen)

Book: Manhunt: From 9/11 to Abbottabad - the Ten-Year Search for Osama Bin Laden
Author: Peter L. Bergen 
ISBN: 1847922015 
Publisher: Bodley Head
No. of Pages: 384
Book Courtesy:

Non-fiction and History is an outright strange combination that requires intensely solitary writing and profound collectivity on subject.  'Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden--from 9/11 to Abbottabad’  is example of such a book that will take you step-by-step, event-after-event, right from 9/11/2001 to 3/2/2011 (Date of Osama Bin Laden’s Death). Book is based on exhaustive research by Peter L.  Bergen and on exceptional access to White House official documents that makes it a bona fide book on Mission to hunt down mastermind of the biggest terrorist attack in American History.

 It was only a week before 9/11 that Peter Bergen turned in the manuscript of Holy War, Inc., the story of Osama bin Laden--whom Bergen had once interviewed in a mud hut in Afghanistan--and his declaration of war on America.

Here are riveting new details of bin Laden’s flight after the crushing defeat of the Taliban to Tora Bora, where American forces came startlingly close to capturing him, and of the fugitive leader’s attempts to find a secure hiding place. As the only journalist to gain access to bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound before the Pakistani government demolished it, Bergen paints a vivid picture of bin Laden’s grim, Spartan life in hiding and his struggle to maintain control of al-Qaeda even as American drones systematically picked off his key lieutenants. 
Half a world away, CIA analysts haunted by the intelligence failures that led to 9/11 and the WMD fiasco pored over the tiniest of clues before homing in on the man they called "the Kuwaiti"--who led them to a peculiar building with twelve-foot-high walls and security cameras less than a mile from a Pakistani military academy. This was the courier who would unwittingly steer them to bin Laden, now a prisoner of his own making but still plotting to devastate the United States. 

It was May 3rd,2011 when I heard the news “Bin Laden is killed” I thought “just like he was killed 3 times before” but with the sun trying to push the mercury push a bit more to cross 45 degree mark, US President Barack Obama confirmed the news. I found it a bit strange that he was found in Pakistan and US Military actually did the operation on their land but since politics is really an out of my brain thing I left that thought.
I remember Peter Bergen as writer of Holy War inc. which talked about how religion can flip the face of terrorism and only after a week of its publishing 9/11 happened. ‘Manhunt’ is a detailed account of how America searched and killed world’s most brutal terrorist. Page by Page, Chapter By Chapter, there is a sense of knowing a secret and with the passing pages you can feel the weight of revelation. Book is consisting of 14 chapters that will take you to the Hunt for Bin Laden.

Prologue of book is about Bin Laden’s life before 9/11and Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was hiding in his last days. I am still amazed by Bergen’s research because he not only wrote about Laden, but about his family, and even families of his family! So much detailing on every fact with hundred percent precision. The way Bergen described Bin Laden made me feel how strongly he lived his life (of’ course before 9/11).  
Chapter 1 is dedicated to 9/11 and reactions of it from both sides i.e. America and Al-Qaeda. This chapter clearly describes the intentions and mindset of so called Jihadists. Bergen also wrote about Low life of militants and their belief in their Leader. 
Chapter 2 is about America’s counterattack on Bin Laden who was hiding in Afghanistan’s mount Tora Bora range. Bergen has neutrally written how America almost got the man but at last moment due to a blunder lost him and he slipped away from their hands.
After reading Chapter 3 I realized the reason of efficient working of Al-Qaeda. According to Bergen it was almost like an organization where Osama was CEO. A revelation about those popular Video Messages of Osama is also there.
Initial chapters encapsulated details of 9/11, Al-Qaeda’s working principals, Rise of Osama, his personal life, failure of America’s Intelligence service; which almost everyone know (in case if you really like history). But from chapter 5 the actual process of searching the man starts and Bergen’s narration is really a page turner.
In later chapters Bergen has crisply described how CIA made the strategy to find Osama, how they failed many times, Clashes of High Ranked Officers and their views, and finally about the ‘Action’ in Abbottobad. Being an avid follower of 9/11, it was really easy for me to recognize the names and places that Bergen described and even if you are not familiar with them; it’s really not a problem because every person and place is described fantastically. 
In ‘Manhunt’ you can see Bergen’s research on Bin Laden on every chapter and knowing the fact that not everyone can understand the terms, places and names easily, a detailed map of Afghanistan and Pakistan, with US Navy SEALs operational plan, is given at the starting of the book. By reading it, you can easily figure out US Foreign Policy (which is very dominant according to me). It has Osama’s mindset, his views (that sounds correct at some point if you are a neutral reader), Working of CIA and people involved in making this operation possible, you can even read about how Navy SEALs get trained and how they prepared for most critical mission of American History. Book is full of real statements of persons which are a plus point to increase its credibility plus many Real Photos are an additional welcome feature.    
Even after having everything almost perfect I found some flaws that are only from a normal reader’s perspective. Book deals with so many characters, though they are all real, which makes it really hard to remember people and their exact role.
Another point that Bergen totally missed out in Manhunt is that there is no detail about how Al-Qaeda’s finances started to go down, and where did their money go. This is really important because when you are talking about millions of dollars that they had once, and then showing them poor as ever, we must need to know how it happened. Nonetheless rest of the research is really extensive and complete from start to end.

So my take on ‘Manhunt’ is, throughout the book, Bergen presented the evidence on both sides and even on the most controversial issues he remains unbiased. It also raised a question of Pakistan’s role in fight against terrorism because according to CIA, Pakistan was not brought into concern because they believe Pakistan was a threat to jeopardize the mission. I enjoyed it because I’ve followed 9/11 thoroughly and if you are clueless about 9/11, it becomes a Must Read for you. Book is for patient readers and requires a lot of analytical skills that makes it One-Time-Read. 

Happy Reading :)

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