Riedel served as a point man for the Middle East on the U.S. National Security Council from 1997 to 2003, in the administrations of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. He also had many earlier years of high-level involvement in monitoring the Middle East for the CIA. This book is not, however, a memoir (although a number of personal accounts are given). It reflects the mindset of a model career intelligence officer: present succinctly the history of the problem (al Qaeda), move on to the present capabilities and plans of that problem, and end with specific steps the United States should take to defeat the problem. The history is set out in chapters featuring, separately, Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri; bin Laden himself; the Taliban leader Mullah Omar; and the now-dead al Qaeda in Iraq head, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There follows a chapter titled "Al Qaeda's Plans." The concluding chapter, "How to Defeat al Qaeda," insists that "a primarily military strategy will not eradicate this foe" and gets down to such specifics as the need to reach just settlements between Israel and the Palestinians and between India and Pakistan in Kashmir, implement an orderly but prompt withdrawal from Iraq, and eliminate U.S. bureaucratic confusion by giving the CIA director responsibility for the "global manhunt" against al Qaeda members.
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