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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. Dulles Virginia: Potomac Books, 2013 [imprint of the University of Nebraska Press]. Maps. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xxxvi, 167. $24.95 ISBN: 978-1-61234-533-8

102 Days of War is a relatively short but forceful examination of America's early military operations in Afghanistan following the September 11 terrorist attacks by al Qaeda. Yaniv Barzilai, a State Department diplomat and desk officer specializing in Afghanistan and Pakistan, explores the political and military decisions made between 9/11 and the December 2001 Battle of Tora Bora. Besides allowing Osama Bin Laden to escape into Pakistan, the decisions made during those first critical months after 9/11 continue to haunt America as it attempts to end its longest war in Afghanistan.

Barzilai's research included extensive interviews with members of President George W. Bush's administration, including former National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice and former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith. He also took advantage of many written sources, including memoirs from participants (including former President Bush) and unclassified information made available since 2001. The result is an insightful, but not always flattering, look at how America's leaders responded to 9/11.

In the days after 9/11, the administration attempted to respond quickly and forcefully to al Qaeda's attacks on America. As Barzilai shows, the response--though tactically successful in the unconventional use of CIA paramilitary teams and Special Operational Forces (SOF) inserted into Afghanistan--did not follow a well-defined or consistent strategy. President Bush and his senior advisors did not provide clear guidance and failed to distinguish between the competing and often contradictory objectives of overthrowing the Taliban, clearing Afghanis tan of al Qaeda, and capturing or killing Osama Bin Laden. In addition, the lack of a Defense Department (DoD) operational war plan for Afghanistan and the role of Pakistan hampered the military response.

Though the initial American military operations in Afghanistan were successful in quickly overthrowing the Taliban and eliminating al Qaeda's terrorist training camps, the lack of strategic focus ultimately led to the failure at Tora Bora, the mountain refuge of Osama Bin Laden. In December 2001, fewer than 100 American and British forces allied with a number of Afghan warlords were unable to prevent Osama Bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders from escaping into Pakistan, possibly with the aid of Pakistani intelligence elements.

Barzilai concludes 102 Days by discussing the successful 2011 military strike on Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. He compares the direct involvement of President Obama in that raid's planning and execution with President Bush's more traditional "hands off" approach during the Battle of Tora Bora in 2001. Though his contrast of their respective leadership styles is interesting, some readers may take exception to Barzilai's conclusions, considering America's recent response to the rise of the Islamic State and perceived tensions between President Obama and senior DoD leaders. However, his overall assessment of America's military experience in Afghanistan in 2001, rings true and is a reminder that Carl Von Clausewitz's On War remains relevant today. As quoted by Barzilai, "No one starts a war--or rather, no one in his senses ought to do so--without first being clear in his mind what he intends to achieve by that war and how he intends to conduct it."

Maj. Jeffrey P Joyce, USAF (Ret.)
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Author:Joyce, Jeffrey P.
Publication:Air Power History
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2015
Words:560
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