- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 2, 2001

Peter L. Bergen's Holy War: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (Free Press, $26, 283 pages, map) is an in-depth and authoritative account of Osama bin Laden, his terrorist organization, al Qaeda, and their global network of terrorist group affiliates. Mr. Bergen is CNN's terrorism analyst and has covered bin Laden and his organization for several years. In March 1997, he received an invitation to meet and interview bin Laden in the heart of Afghanistan's Hindu Khush mountains. He has also traveled around the world to research and report on al Qaeda's Jihadist's network of operations.
Based on the author's personal experiences with bin Laden and al Qaeda, this book provides unparalleled insights into how bin Laden and his organization were provided a safe haven by the Sudanese government, how the Taliban came to harbor his organization in Afghanistan; how bin Laden lives, travels, and communicates with his terrorist "cells"; the dimensions of his personal fortune; and how the attacks were planned and executed against the American embassies in Africa in June of 1998 and the warship USS Cole in Yemen in October, 2000. These attacks foreshadowed the destruction of the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon which occurred about a month after Mr. Bergen submitted his manuscript to the publisher.
Mr. Bergen presents bin Laden and his organization as two diametrically opposite worlds: a corporate world that has adopted 21st-century communications and weapons technologies, including possessing blueprints or actual weapons and devices that can cause mass destruction, and one in which many of its leaders and operatives in Afghanistan live in relatively primitive mountainous caves or mud buildings. Meanwhile, with other operatives living in modern circumstances in Europe and the United States, all are directed to advance an almost medieval interpretation of holy war against America and the West.

Fundamentalism Reborn?: Afghanistan and the Taliban (New York University Press, $50, $19.50 paper, 253 pages) is an important collection of essays by leading experts on Afghanistan and the Taliban edited by William Maley, a professor of politics at the University of New South Wales, Australia. It was originally published in 1998 but reissued shortly after the September 11, 2001, attacks.
In a new introduction, Mr. Maley updates the situation in Afghanistan to include the suicide killing of Northern Alliance leader Ahmad Shah Massoud and al Qaeda's attacks in New York City and Washington. The volume's chapters discuss the Taliban's roots, how it became a military force, Pakistan's relations with the Taliban, the Taliban's foreign relations, their negative impact on the reconstruction of Afghanistan, and paths to the future. It is an invaluable academic resource for anyone seeking to understand how the Taliban came to rule and "ruin" Afghanistan.

U.S. policy toward Colombia has been driven by counter-narcotics considerations, but as Angel Rabasa and Peter Chalk point out in their compelling study Colombian Labyrinth: The Synergy of Drugs and Insurgency and Its Implications for Regional Stability, (RAND, $15 paper, 113 pages), Colombia is a geostrategically significant country, whose trajectory influences broader trends in the Andean region and beyond.
The book examines the sources of instability in the country and the objectives, strategies, strengths and weaknesses of the four main parties to the conflict: first, the narcotrafficking guerrillas the conflict's instigators; second, the Colombian government, including its military; third, the right-wing paramilitaries that fight the guerrillas; and, fourth, the United States, which provides the government with economic and military assistance.
The authors, who are senior policy analysts at the RAND national security research organization, lay out scenarios and futures for Colombia with implications for both the United States and neighboring countries. They believe that Colombia's instability stems from the interaction between the thriving underground drug economy and insurgent challenges to the state's authority. Solutions to the core problem the weakness of the Colombian State must focus on improving the government's military and institutional capabilities to regain control of the countryside. The authors also propose a framework for the United States to work with Colombia's neighbors to make sure that the insurgency does not lead to regional destabilization.

Anthony H. Cordesman's comprehensive Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction (Praeger, $49.95, 449 pages, illus.) is, like the author's numerous other publications, encyclopedic in its analysis and details. Mr. Cordesman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues that the new types of catastrophic terrorist threats facing the United States demonstrated by the September 11 attacks against the World Trade towers and the Pentagon, require a major reorientation in our national security conceptualization, funding, and organizational makeup. Covert attacks against the United States by foreign terrorist groups, rogue states use of terrorist proxies and even attacks by domestic groups and lone individuals (such as the Unabomber) are first-order-of-magnitude threats against current and future U.S. national security.
Mr. Cordesman provides a risk assessment and prioritization of these threats, particularly the likelihood of terrorists using chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear warfare. To create an effective Homeland Defense capability, he proposes a range of policy recommendations, such as reevaluating what constitutes a threat, changing the structure and upgrading the budgets and resources of the federal response effort, and improving the capability of intelligence agencies to anticipate and monitor the threat. In an illuminating chapter, Mr. Cordesman draws policy lessons from recent commissions that have been established to assess the terrorist threat.

Fred J Pushie's lavishly illustrated U.S. Army Special Forces (MBI Publishing Co., $17.95 paper, 128 pages, illus.) provides an authoritative overview of the U.S. Army Special Forces, commonly referred to as the "Green Berets."Its chapters examine the special forces lineage, their origins in the early 1950s, their roles in the Vietnam War, their organization and missions, how recruits are selected and trained, their special equipment and techniques, and how they are prepared to fight the wars of the 21st century. The book is especially useful for those seeking to understand the role of U.S. special forces in peacekeeping missions and combating terrorism.

Joshua Sinai is a senior terrorism analyst at ANSER (Analytic Services) and teaches a course on "Forecasting Terrorism" at the Internet-based American Military University.

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