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. 

In HOW WE MISSED THE STORY: Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, and the Hijacking of Afghanistan (January 2008, United States Institute of Peace Press; $26.00), 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.

Focusing principally on events in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s, Gutman argues that U.S. foreign policy had essentially died. According to Gutman, the U.S. government categorization of bin Laden’s murderous assaults prior to 9/11 as "terrorism" was not so much an intelligence or military failure but rather a strategic failure of U.S. foreign policy—a failure that penetrated every level of the U.S. foreign affairs hierarchy. Two presidents, greater law enforcement including the CIA and the FBI, upper level political appointees, experts, and skilled civil servants relied on quick-fix, counter-terrorism tactics to end the threats from Osama bin Laden. Assuming that the public would not support a long-term, broad spectrum approach, the government opted to develop a counter-terror policy—when a more comprehensive foreign policy was needed—and inadvertently fueled the very fire it was trying to fight.

"When government believes military power and law enforcement can destroy a movement based on purported political grievance, it underestimates the task and gives new sustenance to the movement. Underestimating the task is the characteristic of this story," writes Gutman. Gutman critically reviews the media’s role, or lack thereof, during this period. He writes: "The news media’s absence from the scene prior to 9/11 is one of the great lapses in the modern history of the profession. The principle of watchdog journalism is that if the door is closed or a government restricts the media, ‘That is where I want to be.’" The lesson for the media is to report in depth from far-flung places where the United States does not have an active policy as well as from those places where it does.

Drawing on his own original research and extensive interviews with key players, Gutman offers the inside perspective of a member of the media with comprehensive, journalistic coverage and style.

 

 

 

 


Related Publications

Senior Study Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Final Report

Senior Study Group on Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan: Final Report

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

When announcing the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in April 2021, President Joe Biden identified counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan as an enduring and critical US national security interest. This priority became even more pronounced after the Taliban’s return to power in August 2021, the discovery of al-Qaeda’s leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul less than a year later, and the increasing threat of the Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K) from Afghanistan. However, owing to the escalating pressures of strategic competition with China and Russia, counterterrorism has significantly dropped in importance in the policy agenda.

Type: Report

Violent Extremism

Why Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan Still Matters

Why Counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan Still Matters

Thursday, May 9, 2024

From wars in Ukraine and the Middle East to rising tensions in the South China Sea, there is no shortage of crises to occupy the time and attention of U.S. policymakers. But three years after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the threat of terrorism emanating from South Asia remains strong and policymakers need to be more vigilant. Indeed, at the end of March, an Afghanistan-based affiliate of ISIS launched a devastating attack outside of Moscow, killing over 140 people.

Type: Question and Answer

Global PolicyViolent Extremism

View All Publications