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The Complexity of Modern Asymmetric Warfare
Looking After Minidoka
Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts
The Debater's Guide
In a Queer Voice
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War, States, and Contention
Beside the Troubled Waters
The American Dream
Coming of Age in the Other America

The Search for Al QaedaThe Search for Al Qaeda

Its Leadership, Ideology, and Future

Bruce Riedel

Narrated by David Colacci

Available from Audible

audio sample

Book published by Brookings Institution Press

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.

Bruce Riedel is a former CIA officer who focuses on political transition, terrorism and conflict resolution. He was a senior advisor to three U.S. presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues. 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.

David Colacci (narrator) has narrated more than a hundred audiobooks for major companies and is the winner of multiple Earphones Awards (AudioFile).


“Riedel may not have all the answers, but his book is a critical primer for those who will have to find them.”

—Raymond Bonner, The Guardian

“Riedel, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and senior adviser on the Middle East to three past presidents, reviews how al-Qaeda has flourished since the September 11 attacks with franchises mushrooming around the world. The author surveys al-Qaedas origins, workings and key members and introduces fresh information about the organizations ideology and future plans. Riedel warns against conflating the war against al-Qaeda with the current war in Iraq (the president chose to declare war not on al Qaeda, but on 'terrorism, a concept that he and Vice President Dick Cheney arrived at by confusing 9/11 with Saddam Husseins Iraq) and demonstrates how U.S. actions compound the publics ignorance and vulnerability. He argues that concentrating forces in Iraq has diverted attention and presence from Afghanistan and Pakistan, the hotbeds of jihadist organization, and suggests redirecting the military back to the badlands of the Afghan-Pakistan border while offering economic aid to forestall the extremism that thrives in destitute areas. Riedels argument in favor of greater U.S. involvement in the Arab-Israeli peace process is persuasive, and his prescriptions are well-evidenced, unfailingly sound and refreshingly sensible.”

Publishers Weekly 

“Riedel manages to distill the essence of Al Qaeda in just 150 pages. Among other things, he notes that the Islamic fundamentalists do not hate America’s values, only its policies.... A starting point for a much-needed debate.”

New York Times Book Review


1. The Manhattan Raid

2. The Thinker: Zawahiri

3. The Knight: Osama

4. The Host: Mullah Omar

5. The Stranger: Zarqawi

6. Al Qaeda’s Plans

7. How to Defeat al Qaeda

All titles are published by:
University Press Audiobooks
an imprint of Redwood Audiobooks

University Press Audiobooks