From September 11, 2001 to May 2, 2011, Osama Bin Laden evaded intelligence services and special forces units, drones and hunter killer squads. The Exile tells the extraordinary inside story of that decade through the eyes of those who witnessed it: bin Laden's four wives and many children, his deputies and military strategists, his spiritual advisor, the CIA, Pakistan's ISI, and many others who have never before told their stories.
Investigative journalists Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy gained unique access to Osama bin Laden's inner circle, and they recount the flight of Al Qaeda's forces and bin Laden's innocent family members, the gradual formation of ISIS by bin Laden's lieutenants, and bin Laden's rising paranoia and eroding control over his organization. They also reveal that the Bush White House knew the whereabouts of bin Laden's family and Al Qaeda's military and religious leaders, but rejected opportunities to capture them, pursuing war in the Persian Gulf instead, and offer insights into how Al Qaeda will attempt to regenerate itself in the coming years.
While we think we know what happened in Abbottabad on May 2, 2011, we know little about the wilderness years that led to that shocking event. As authoritative in its scope and detail as it is propulsively readable, The Exile is a landmark work of investigation and reporting.
“[Scott-Clark and Levy] set out to do what few had done before in the West: to see the September 2001 terror attacks and their aftermath from the other side. They traveled widely in the region, listened intently, interviewed aggressively, read newly released accounts and government documents deeply (and wrote lengthily). The result is a breathtaking tale.”—The Boston Globe
“[A] magnificent telling . . . The Exile is a truly impressive feat of journalism, both the closest we're ever likely to come to a day-by-day account of Bin Laden's life in those years and also an intensely gripping reading experience.”—Christian Science Monitor
“Remarkable . . . They have produced the best account yet of what happened to al-Qaida after 9/11: it is an astonishingly good piece of work.”—The Guardian
“This book is a tour de force and the first detailed account told by al-Qaeda members themselves, making good use of the diaries of Abu Zubaydah, the captured al-Qaeda facilitator, as well as extensive interviews with one of its religious thinkers . . . It tells us lots of things we knew, but in far more detail.”—Sunday Times
“[Scott-Clark and Levy's] latest, The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden, is perhaps their best yet . . . The book fills in many important gaps in our knowledge of al-Qaida . . . a gripping inside account.”—Observer
“What struck me more than anything else about The Exile is the phenomenal degree of intimacy that the co-authors Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy have achieved with bin Laden himself . . . By tracking down the myriad bin Laden family members, associates and al-Qaeda members that inhabit this huge tour-de-force of a read, the authors have brought the personality of bin Laden into a sharper focus than could ever have been imagined. The detail mustered is little short of incredible, and evidently the result of forensic research only the best of investigative journalists could dig out . . . It's this feel of being there that makes The Exile such an exceptional account of those lost years when bin Laden and his family went to ground . . . Big it might be, but it is also a page-turner. There have been many books before on bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but this is one of the best. This is bin Laden the man. Above all it's a unique glimpse into darkest recesses of those caves in Tora Bora and the thinking of those that inhabited them while hiding from the world.”—Glasgow Herald
“An astonishing work of scholarship and journalism.”—Choice
“[A] piece of outstanding journalistic bravery . . . the book has an impact and immediacy far stronger than much of the other literature on the subject.”—Literary Review
“The most definitive account available of bin Laden's increasingly fraught existence in an over-crowded, ramshackle villa just a stone's throw from Pakistan's version of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point . . . No other publicly available source comes as close to The Exile in presenting this familiar story . . . The Exile is destined to become a classic.”—Bruce Hoffman, War on the Rocks
“Based on meticulous and unique research, this riveting account of Osama bin Laden's last decade is the most important and revealing book about the al Qaeda leadership in years. The role of the Iranian and Pakistani 'deep states' in hiding bin Laden and his family is fascinating and disturbing.”—Bruce Riedel, former CIA analyst and counter-terrorism expert, and adviser to four US Presidents
“The Exile is a remarkable achievement. Through years of research, investigative work, and interviews, the authors have artfully woven together a gripping account that reads like a thriller—Al-Qaeda's story from their perspective, with all the complexities and nuances of a deeply disturbing chapter of our history, that continues to this day. The Exile is the shocking story behind the story. A must read.”—Suroosh Alvi, co-founder of VICE
“The Exile is a tour de force of investigative journalism. Scott-Clark and Levy focus on the crucial but much ignored 'human factor' in Islamic extremism with great effect. Packed with new details and revelations, their astonishingly intimate account of the inner workings of Al Qaeda, and of the battle to counter its murderous campaign, will be a hugely valuable resource for specialists and general readers alike for years to come.”—Jason Burke, author of Al-Qaeda, The 9/11 Warts, and The New Threat
“A tour de force of investigative research.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Remarkable . . . The book's fascinating perspective exposes layers of human complexity in individuals who are often shrouded by intrigue, and brings nuance to the general Western understanding of jihadi groups. This extensively researched, eminently readable work greatly enhances public knowledge of these dramatic years and will be welcomed by specialists and general readers alike.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)