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The Arabs at War in Afghanistan

In This Review

The Arabs at War in Afghanistan
By Mustafa Hamid and Leah Farrall
Hurst, 2015
355 pp.

It’s always interesting to imagine dialogues with one’s adversaries. Farrall, a former Australian intelligence analyst, and Hamid, an Egyptian who traveled to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in 1979 and remained involved in jihadist circles there for the next two decades, actually had a chance to communicate over a four-year period, over the Internet and in person. In the conversations between them collected in this book, Hamid recounts how, once ensconced in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden was influenced by young Arab extremists who were more enthralled by martyrdom than by building an Islamic society. Partly as a result, bin Laden adopted an international agenda, declaring war against the United States in 1996 and sponsoring the 9/11 attacks in 2001. This strategy proved to be a disaster for his Taliban hosts and, ultimately, for al Qaeda. Hamid saw bin Laden as a man of integrity, with deep pockets and very poor judgment. According to Hamid, bin Laden had no strategy other than to lure the United States into direct combat, and he did not realize that the war with the Soviets was not a model for a war with the Americans.

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