In This Review

102 Days of War: How Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda & the Taliban Survived 2001
102 Days of War: How Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda & the Taliban Survived 2001
By Yaniv Barzilai
Potomac Books, 2014, 194 pp
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For a country, such as the United States, that believes in decisive conclusions to military operations, allowing Osama bin Laden to escape from his redoubt in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in December 2001 was an extraordinary lapse. In this short -- perhaps too short -- book, Barzilai, an enterprising young scholar and U.S. diplomat, has done a good job of pulling together the basic sources on this set of events. He was frustrated by his inability to use government archives but has enlivened his account through interviews with key policymakers. This story is already known, including the fact that the United States committed an insufficient number of ground forces to prevent bin Laden’s escape and that Washington was loath to take risks with the limited forces it did deploy. Barzilai also blames the outcome on a combination of political inattention and sloppy tactics. The lesson he draws is that civilian leaders need to monitor military commanders carefully and make sure they understand the political significance of operational decisions.