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Al Qaeda's Great Escape

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Christian Science Monitor foreign correspondent Smucker offers an excellent, compact study of the campaign in Afghanistan and expounds a familiar thesis clearly and convincingly: the U.S. military, under not only executive but public pressure for a quick victory in revenge for September 11, adopted a strategy that achieved that victory, but only over the Taliban. Resources were not allocated to the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his cohorts, many of whom either fled or went underground, to continue to cause trouble in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The bulk of the book details how that was allowed to happen. Smucker is much harsher on U.S. strategists and his fellow journalists than he is on the American fighting men and women in the field, who include not only the glamorous covert operations troops but the humble logisticians "in the air, on land, and sea." Stronger on the military than on the civilian side, Smucker does not adequately deal with the question of whether the pursuit of the Taliban received its priority because of the need for Northern Alliance support, and the Washington-based coverage could have been usefully expanded. Much more literate than most journalistic accounts, this book is not for ideologues at either end of the spectrum, as the struggle for balance and perspective is visible on every page. By the end, the wealth of operational detail will leave readers with a palpable sense of missed opportunity. (Feb.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Smucker has been an overseas reporter for the last 16 years, covering the war on terror-frequently within shooting range of the events-for publications like the Christian Science Monitor and U.S. News and World Report. In this harrowing account, he candidly discusses the action in Afghanistan and the missed opportunity that allowed Osama bin Laden and others to escape. As he rightfully observes, once the Taliban was decimated and the Al Qaeda forces were on the run, it was supposed to be an easy mopping up operation for the U.S. forces and the Afghan allies. Instead, the attack on Tora Bora failed to deliver the decisive blow because of poor planning. The result: the bulk of the Al Qaeda leadership and fighters simply escaped to Pakistan. Asserting that the military failed to show the real situation in its battle reports and that the Western media accepted the reports as fact, Smucker delivers an honest and difficult-to-put-down eyewitness account with wide appeal.-Mark Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

Philip Smucker is one of the bravest reporters in the international press corps. His book is a chilling look at what went wrong with the pursuit of al Qaeda. If anybody ever does find bin Laden, I'll put my money on Smucker getting there first. --"Lawrence Wright, The New Yorker A brilliant book that provides detail on al Qaeda's escape from Afghanistan and a must read' for everyone who needs to know what really happened at Tora Bora. Al Qaeda is out in the world in large numbers and Philip Smucker' s book is the first comprehensive account of how this happened. --"Charles Heyman, editor, Jane's World Armies Only Phil Smucker could head into Afghanistan on a mission to capture Osama Bin Laden, armed with just an empty whiskey bottle and an eight-foot carpet to wrap up his prisoner. Along the way, he uncovers treachery and skulduggery on a mammoth scale. Rip-roaring stuff. --"Jacky Rowland, BBC Philip Smucker takes greater risks for a story than any reporter I have ever worked with. That spirit of daring, along with a few shrewd guesses, put him in place to report on Osama bin Laden's escape from Tora Bora weeks before the Bush administration was willing to admit it. In Al Qaeda's Great Escape Smucker breaks real news while evoking the drama, excitement and danger of a war correspondent's life. --"David Jones, foreign editor, The Washington Times This book is a must for those who want to understand the complexities and confusion that is involved in the War on Terror. The book will outrage a few, encourage some, and inform all who read it as to what we are up against. His on-the-scene reporting is excellent, and his views are provocative. I recommend it for the informed reader who wants agood read as well as some useful information. --"Col. John Brinkerhoff, USA (Ret.) "An excellent, compact study of the campaign in Afghanistan . . . Much more literate than most journalistic accounts, this book is not for ideologues at either end of the spectrum, as the struggle for balance and perspective is visible on every page." --Publishers Weekly "Besides providing an excellent picture--and pictures--of the war, Smucker explains how information was obtained, used, abused, and just plain ignored. . . . Smucker's narrative style makes you feel as if you were therre, especially when his 'get the story at all costs' impulses take over. So in addition to everything else it is, this is quite a picture of contemporary combat reporting." --Booklist "A devastating critique . . . delivered with such humor and irony, however, that casual readers could easily underestimate its full impact. . . . Smucker is a superb stylist; it is difficult to grasp how reading about something so depressing can be so much fun." --Washington Post "Makes you feel as if you were there . . . quite a picture of contemporary combat reporting."

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