The Exile
The Exile joins Osama bin Laden as he escapes into Pakistan in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, bringing to vivid life the years leading up to his death spent on the run and in exile. It tells the human story, and illuminates the global political workings. It is a tale of evasion, collusion, betrayal and the deep pain of isolation. Staying with a small group of characters throughout, The Exile moves through a series of dramatic set-pieces, from the shocking failure of the Battle of Tora Bora, one of the most significant losses in US strategic history, when, outgunned and outflanked, Osama still managed to give the world's most accomplished trackers the slip, through his covert journey from safe-house to safe-house in Pakistan, to the years spent hiding in the military compound in Abottabad where he was eventually to be killed. Using the contacts built up through years of research, including wives of key players such as Osama bin Laden and his mastermind, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, the authors have gained extraordinary and intimate insight into Osama bin Laden and those closest to him. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, this is an enthralling and revelatory journey.

The Exile Details

TitleThe Exile
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 1st, 2017
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN1408858762
ISBN-139781408858769
Number of pages620 pages
Rating
GenreHistory, Nonfiction, War, Terrorism

The Exile Review

  • Alex Strick van Linschoten
    June 25, 2017
    There is no shortage of books on the September 11 attacks and their aftermath. Some stand back to analyse it in terms of trends and networks, seeking to explain the 'why' through abstractions. Others have written participant accounts or their histories from the sidelines. The Exile offers a fulsome corrective to this trend towards abstraction. Curious what life was like for bin Laden, his commanders and their families? Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy deliver in spades.The beating heart of this There is no shortage of books on the September 11 attacks and their aftermath. Some stand back to analyse it in terms of trends and networks, seeking to explain the 'why' through abstractions. Others have written participant accounts or their histories from the sidelines. The Exile offers a fulsome corrective to this trend towards abstraction. Curious what life was like for bin Laden, his commanders and their families? Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy deliver in spades.The beating heart of this book are the stories of bin Laden's wives, their children and their life in 'exile'. The authors seem to have managed to achieve as yet unparalleled access to the wives and some other family members of Osama bin Laden, and their tale is both gripping and believable. The second important contribution that the book makes is to reveal Iran's role in hosting the bin Laden families (and commanders) post-2001. The rich detail goes a long way to giving the reader a sense of the day-to-day frustrations of their lives in Tehran (and other places). The book would be worth its price just for these sections alone.Chapter Eleven tells the story of the night bin Laden died, to a large extent from the perspective of his wives and family members. They also weave in accounts from US soldiers participating in the raid, but this is a perspective we have been denied till now and I think it is an important one. Indeed, the trauma faced by the children on that night (and throughout the years prior, for the most part unable to leave their home) is one of the understated but crucial themes that stand out from 'The Exile'.Every account of bin Laden's time post-2001 has to grapple with the question of Pakistan's role. The authors take a smart position throughout the book, which is to abstain from abstraction and a strong analytic voice. There are some claims of Pakistani ISI involvement and meetings here and there, but they step back a little before charging the government or senior officials with a state-level conspiracy. Whatever happened, this account holds, was much more an affair of bit players.The book had the feeling of being rushed to press. It must have cost a lot to research the book, so perhaps the authors simply ran out of funds, but it seemed like there were so many other lines of enquiry that could have been started. The hardcover copy I read still had a fairly large number of typos, and it's a shame that the authors use the word "Afghanis" to refer to Afghans.The book is extremely readable -- it kept me up until two in the morning as I finished it -- and this is in large part because of the use of dialogue and building up narrative tension through conversations. Unfortunately, the handling of some of these conversations -- reported through interviews with participants -- strains credulity. Study of memory and oral history has shown how these kinds of memories degrade or get reshaped with each telling, and I wish there were more caveats throughout the book that what we're reading is an approximation of what happened in order to better imaginatively enter the situation.All in all, though, The Exile is an important book, an engrossing read and hopefully the beginning of more enquiries as others follow up on leads and side-stories raised in the telling. It seems that scholars of September 11 and its aftermath are doomed to eternally reading and retelling the same events in slightly different contortions as new facts and witnesses emerge. If all the books were as good as this one, I wouldn't mind so so much.
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  • Murtaza
    June 10, 2017
    In what may be one of the strangest episodes in world history, a small group of poorly-resourced men in a remote area of a devastated country launched an attack against the most powerful empire in the world that succeeded in slowly degrading its institutions and global influence to the point of near collapse. This is the irksome story of al Qaeda and the United States, which is still playing out 16 years after the planes struck the towers in Manhattan. Although many of those who started this bat In what may be one of the strangest episodes in world history, a small group of poorly-resourced men in a remote area of a devastated country launched an attack against the most powerful empire in the world that succeeded in slowly degrading its institutions and global influence to the point of near collapse. This is the irksome story of al Qaeda and the United States, which is still playing out 16 years after the planes struck the towers in Manhattan. Although many of those who started this battle have now exited the scene, the conflict they triggered continues to rage on with no end of sight.This book is a recounting of the period of exile that al Qaeda's leadership went into in the years after the attack, but it is also a meticulous and enthralling reconstruction of how we got to this point. Crucially, the book is based on interviews with former al Qaeda members and their families (particularly bin Laden's family), providing a very rare insight into how events were experienced on the other side of this conflict. The most incredible portions in my opinion are those that take place in Iran, where al Qaeda's top military leadership spent a decade living under a type of bizarre house arrest by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. The reconstruction of the dynamic between al Qaeda figures, their families and their Western adversaries is compellingly done, and while reading you really feel come to feel as though you are perusing an alternate history of a period that we have all lived through.I made copious notes from the book and will return to it many more times in the future. Its one of the few books that I would describe as an indispensable history of our current era and I recommend it to anyone, though it is mandatory for those with an interest in the "War on Terror," which, frankly, seems to be just getting started.
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  • Martin
    June 1, 2017
    Along with The Looming Tower, this is one of the two most essential books on Al-Queda. The Exile traces the fallout from 9-11 on AQ, as it follows their members, and those searching for them over the next ten years. I had a lot of trouble putting this book down, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the subject. The research that went in to this book is simply staggering.
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  • Praveena D.M.
    January 17, 2017
    One of the best book read in recent times. Well narrated story of Osama Bin Laden and his team. I had already watched the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" so I know how osama life ended. What fascinating for me is how osama survived almost ten years after 9/11 when worlds best men trying to find him."Zero Dark Thirty" tells story only from CIA or American Intelligence agencies perspective, so don't skip this book. In this awesome book, Authors tells the story of all persons over the time. Authors follow One of the best book read in recent times. Well narrated story of Osama Bin Laden and his team. I had already watched the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" so I know how osama life ended. What fascinating for me is how osama survived almost ten years after 9/11 when worlds best men trying to find him."Zero Dark Thirty" tells story only from CIA or American Intelligence agencies perspective, so don't skip this book. In this awesome book, Authors tells the story of all persons over the time. Authors follow the timeline so it will be easy to connect the incidents. Authors never tried to pass their judgement instead, they gave persons involved to express their opinion. The book deals with many persons, the way authors handled all the characters without confusing reader is most extraordinary work.The book is based on many people interviews, dairies, statements. However, author excellantly connected the dots so reading this book is an awesome experience.Even though, I hate al-qaeda or any terrorist organisation for that matter, some kind of liking started toward some persons like Khadija d/o Seham bin laden, iman bin laden etc. I felt emotional when Khadija die during her delivery of twins. Authors quality of bringing emotional side of notorious family members is outstanding.I strongly feel OBL went against shura to do suicide mission. I think its too foolish to underestimate USA. Without any army or any kind of preparation to defend them in inevitable war after plane operation, I feel he did nothing in terms of preparing to defend his turf. I loved the way authors wrote this book so I am going to read all the books wrote by Author Duo.
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  • Diana Grace
    April 25, 2017
    Note to self: Watch Zero Dark Thirty
  • Sarah Mirzen
    June 17, 2017
    A surprising, super readable, unnerving account of a whole slab of history I have never come across before. This has made me think again about the 'terror years'. Exile is also a dramatic, he said she said domestic drama. Small lives and big politics. Big book - but a fast involving read. This might be the best on the era we're living in now.
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  • Justin Hughes
    June 22, 2017
    Essential 21st century politics and war reading. Damnit! Everything could have been way better from a terrible start, but now we know what actually happened. Everybody did a terrible job of everything.
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