U.S. Institute of Peace Press

Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Hijacking of Afghanistan

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USIP Press Books
January 2008
304 pp. , 6" x 9"

“Roy Gutman, a tireless reporter, has written a deeply researched and fascinating account of the various U.S. foreign policy failures that helped account for the rise of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan before the 9/11 attacks. Gutman also explains how so many institutions in the United States, from the media to the national security establishment, largely missed what would turn out to be one of the most important stories of our time.”
—Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I Know

“This well-written, on-the-mark book is an informative and entertaining read. No other study that examines the events leading up to 9/11 is as persuasive in placing the blame where it belongs—on the failure of three successive U.S. presidents to provide the foreign policy leadership and direction needed to address the politics, philosophy, and disposition to violence of Islamist extremism.”
—Thomas E. Gouttierre, Dean, International Studies and Programs, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Focusing principally on events and policy missteps in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, award-winning journalist Roy Gutman weaves a narrative that exposes how and why the U.S. government, the United Nations, and the Western media “missed the story” in the leadup to 9/11. He advances this narrative carefully and persuasively and approaches his subject with an objective, journalistic eye, drawing heavily on his own original research and extensive interviews with key players both in the United States and abroad. Arguing that the U.S. government made a strategic mistake by categorizing bin Laden’s murderous assaults prior to 9/11 as terrorism, he ultimately concludes that the core failure was in the field of U.S. foreign policy.

Sure to attract a wide audience, this first-rate, deeply engaging volume makes a highly original contribution to our understanding of the events and mistakes that ultimately led to 9/11—and offers much-needed insight so that such a story is not missed again.

Events & Interviews
Press Kit


Roy Gutman is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who currently serves as foreign editor for McClatchy newspapers.

Browse Inside the Book


  • Introduction: The Death of Foreign Policy?
  • Comrades: The End (1989)
  • A Half Solution (1989-1992)
  • Ahmed Shah Massoud (1992-1996)
  • "An Endless Tragedy of Epic Proportions" (1997)
  • "Silence Cannot be the Strategy" (1998)
  • Hijacking a Regime (1999)
  • Coasting toward Catastrophe (2000-2001)
  • Human Rights under Massoud and the Taliban
  • Radicalization without Response
  • Epilogue: Clemenceau Revisited

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