The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight

The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight

by Cathy Scott-Clark, Adrian Levy


$27.00 $30.00 Save 10% Current price is $27, Original price is $30. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Eligible for FREE SHIPPING
  • Want it by Wednesday, October 24  Order now and choose Expedited Shipping during checkout.
    Same Day shipping in Manhattan. 
    See Details


The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight by Cathy Scott-Clark, Adrian Levy

Startling and scandalous, this is an intimate insider's story of Osama bin Laden's retinue in the ten years after 9/11, a family in flight and at war.

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 propuslively readable, The Exile is a landmark work of investigation and reporting.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620409848
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
Publication date: 05/23/2017
Pages: 640
Sales rank: 790,036
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.00(h) x 2.10(d)

About the Author

Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy are acclaimed investigative journalists, and the authors of several books, most recently The Siege: 58 Hours Inside the Taj Hotel. Their other books are The Meadow: Kashmir 1995-Where the Terror Began, Nuclear Deception: The Dangerous Relationship Between the United States and Pakistan, The Amber Room: The Fate of the World's Greatest Lost Treasure, and The Stone of Heaven: Unearthing the Secret History of Imperial Green Jade. For sixteen years they worked as foreign correspondents and investigative reporters for the Sunday Times and the Guardian. In 2009 the One World Trust named them British Journalists of the Year, and they won Foreign Correspondents of the Year in 2004. They co-produce documentaries that have been nominated at the Amnesty International Media Awards and longlisted at the BAFTAs. They live in London.

Read an Excerpt

The Exile

The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight

By Cathy Scott-Clark, Adrian Levy

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Copyright © 2017 Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62040-984-8


"Shit. I think we bit off more than we could chew."

— Mokhtar to his deputies on September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001, noon, Khost, Afghanistan

Settling down into a nest of shawls and bolsters, fortified by sweetened tea, Osama bin Laden was anxious and excited, watching as a scrawny Yemeni bodyguard, who also covered duties in Al Qaeda's media office, ranged around the mouth of the cave balancing a large satellite dish, humming to himself.

"It is very important we are able to watch the news today," Osama insisted, directing the guard this way and that. Installed up in the Sulaiman mountain range, high above the city of Khost, and accompanied by his teenage sons Othman and Mohammed, Osama had driven across the plains from Kandahar in his improvised media truck, loaded down with a satellite dish, a receiver, a small television set, laptops, and an old generator. In the last few minutes, a message had come through on the radio that Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker, had passed security and was boarding his flight, American Airlines ii. Osama now intended to observe the "Planes Operation" unfolding from a position of complete safety.

But wherever the bodyguard moved the dish, finding new ledges and handholds in the rock face, the mountains got in the way of the signal. Osama clicked his tongue in annoyance. Was it the heavy cloud cover? Or was his man just incompetent? It might have been the cabling, which he could see was poorly spliced. Whatever it was, there was no picture and it became obvious to everyone that they were going to have to listen to the radio, while the rest of the world watched.

Osama's military chief, Abu Hafs the Commander, had given a hint of the plan to a trusted Al Jazeera journalist in Kandahar a few months earlier during the wedding of his daughter, Khadija, to Osama's son Mohammed. "The United States is going to be forced to invade Afghanistan soon," the reporter was warned as the Commander chewed on a knuckle of roasted goat. "And we are preparing for that. We want them to come."

The marriage had taken place at Tarnak Qila, an ancient fort in the desert southwest of Kandahar airport that Al Qaeda had made its field headquarters, the outfit's second most important base after Osama's cherished Tora Bora cave complex in the far northeast of the country.

The celebrations had been the most lavish of several weddings that Osama had fixed over the past year to ensure that all his children of marriageable age were wed to soldiers, thinkers, and funders before the Planes Operation unfolded. Al Qaeda needed all the support it could get in the months ahead, he supposed, and matchmaking with his children gave the outfit an economic and strategic depth. There was another reason for the rush. For a Gulf Arab, a father facing possible death was compelled to ensure his offspring's future. If Osama were martyred in the coming war, leaving his children without betrothals, he would forfeit his reward in the afterlife.

By lunchtime, his blood sugar level was dropping. This was supposed to be his greatest moment and yet he was unsettled. There had been weeks of upheavals within Al Qaeda, a grueling falling-out with Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, which was ongoing, and profound family discord.

Until recently Osama had lived with four wives and more than a dozen children and grandchildren at Tarnak Qila. The family was a font of pride that spoke of his virility, and demonstrated his power. But his fourth son, Omar, and his senior wife, Najwa, had both walked out on him — unexpected acts of desertion that had sent him into a spiral of rage.

Many Al Qaeda brothers had witnessed the screaming rows he had had with Omar, a teenager who Osama had been training as his heir, and who bore a striking resemblance to his father. But Omar had never shared his father's obsession with war. "I want to leave this place, I must leave this place," the teen had sobbed, after he learned of the coming Planes Operation. Please could his father stop?

Osama, who could not tolerate being challenged, had shouted back: "Omar, I will fight until my dying day! ... I will never stop this jihad!"

Realizing that his father was beyond reach, Omar went to his mother, Najwa, pleading for her to leave with him. "Please leave mother and come back to real life with me." But timid, downtrodden Najwa, who had never disobeyed her husband, refused and so Omar had slipped away alone. "[My father's] violent path had separated us forever," he later recalled.

The remaining bin Laden boys were more robust. Othman, who Omar had regarded as brutish, stepped into the breach, attempting to impress his father with a public pledge: "Jihad is in my mind, heart and blood veins. No fear, nor intimidation can ever take that feeling out of my mind and body."

At the end of August 2001, Najwa had had a change of heart, and with Omar's words playing on her mind, she had asked to leave, an unexpected act of rebellion from a woman who had loyally stuck by her husband's side for twenty-six years and given him eleven children.

Najwa had never intended to be a jihad bride. Glamorous and beautiful, she was a Ghanem, one of the oldest families in Syria, and she had grown up in the cosmopolitan seaside resort of Latakia, where women wore bikinis. Arriving as Osama's young wife in Jeddah in 1974 she had reluctantly donned a chador and niqab. She consented when he also insisted that she wear black socks and gloves, but underneath the black folds she still wore lipstick and designer clothes. Nevertheless, over the years, his exacting demands dragged her down. His brothers' wives recalled her being downcast, drab, and permanently pregnant. "Najwah [sic] seemed almost completely invisible," recalled Carmen bin Laden, who was once married to Osama's brother Yeslam.

Even so, Najwa could never have predicted that she would end up in a shack in Kandahar, wearing an Afghan burqa, cooking on a "one-eyed camping burner" and plugging the bullet holes in her hut with raw wool to keep out snakes, scorpions, and the bitter wind. "I never stopped praying that everything in the world would be peaceful," she said later, "and that our lives might return to normal."

The Planes Operation and her husband's recent decision to marry yet again, this time to a Yemeni teenager, was what had made up Najwa's mind to leave. "Osama, can I go to Syria?" she asked in the last week of August 2001. She knew whatever was coming was imminent and felt a duty to save those children not yet pledged to Al Qaeda.

Osama's face fell. "Are you sure, Najwa?" he asked, incredulous.

"Yes," she said falteringly. "I need to go."

They had made their final farewells on the morning of September 9. "I will never divorce you, Najwa," he told her earnestly. "Even if you hear I have divorced you, know that it cannot be true."

Najwa slid a ring from her finger and pressed it into his hand.

Osama took it. "But these," he said, his voice changing register, and pointing to their eleven-year-old daughter Iman and nine-year-old son Ladin, "belong with their father. You can only take the babies."

Najwa's eyes filled with tears as Osama pushed the older children away. She knew that under Saudi law she had no rights to keep them and that in Afghanistan there was virtually no law protecting women at all.

She was helped into a pickup with her youngest two daughters — Rukaiya, three, and Nour, one. Her disabled adult son, Abdul Rahman, who could not function without her and so was also leaving, sat up front next to moody Othman, the family bully. He would escort his mother to the Pakistan border and then return to his father's side.

As they drove away, Najwa turned to see her family enveloped in the dust. "My mother's heart broke into little pieces watching the silhouettes of my little children fade into the distance," she said later. She did not expect to ever see them again.

Back in the cave above Khost, Osama picked up a VHF walkie-talkie and sent a brief message. Someone had to find his spiritual adviser, a Mauritanian scholar called Mahfouz Ibn El Waleed. He should have been here, supporting Osama and sitting beside him sipping tea. But the Mauritanian had chosen to remain in Kandahar.

He and Osama were no longer talking after he had voted against the Planes Operation, leading a revolt and taking more than half of Al Qaeda's ruling shura with him. A few weeks back, the Mauritanian had gone further and quit Al Qaeda altogether — a move that Osama had not seen coming and subsequently had tried to hush up as it threatened to split the outfit irreconcilably.

Today, September 11, 2001, and with the countdown to the attacks ticking, Osama knew what he wanted to do. Najwa and Omar might have been beyond his control, but he could still rub the Mauritanian's nose in the dust.

September 11, 2001,3 p.m., Kandahar, Afghanistan

Down on the plains, the Mauritanian was working in the Taliban media center, assembling the latest edition of Islamic Emirate magazine, when Osama's messenger poked his head around the door. The cleric looked up. "Yes?" he asked, frustrated, knowing who the man served.

"The Sheikh says you should listen out for some joyous news," the messenger said, scuttling away.

Disturbed and fully understanding what this meant, the Mauritanian packed up his papers, made an excuse to the Taliban brothers, and returned home to dig out his old Sony radio. Had it already started? He could not bear to be with the Talibs when the Planes Operation — which none of them had been consulted about and which he had been unable to stop — was reported around the world.

For ten years the Mauritanian had been at Osama's side, becoming a pivotal, highly respected figure on Al Qaeda's shura and chairman of the outfit's influential sharia (legal) committee. Osama relied on him to construct the religious justification for Al Qaeda operations and anchor them in Koranic values. The Mauritanian would be asked whether a particular broadside could be defended. And if so, how? His was not a crowded field. Even though Al Qaeda was seen in the West through an Islamist prism and was commonly portrayed as a ferocious clerical turbine, the Mauritanian was the sole member of the leadership to have had any genuine religious training. And for that reason he commanded Osama's utmost respect.

For years, he had successfully finessed his Sheikh's wilder plans, acting as his censor, confessor, counselor, voice, and, on more than one occasion, his accountant cum investment consultant. He understood Osama's weaknesses: vanity, single-mindedness, a fierce anger quick to spark, and a quixotic vision that was virtually impossible to temper with facts.

When he wasn't at his Sheikh's side, he was in Kandahar city, acting as liaison to the Taliban's Mullah Omar or running the House of the Pomegranates, a finishing school where Al Qaeda and Taliban recruits delved deeper into the cultural and religious foundations of jihad. Here, war-weary veterans came to relearn Koranic teachings. Everyone was encouraged to write poetry. This was as much about betterment, instilling discipline, and learning as it was about indoctrination.

The Mauritanian had always been culturally minded. He had won prizes for his odes when growing up in the low-rise dustbowl of Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital. Over the years, he had ghost-written most of Osama's speeches, religious judgments, and press releases, even authoring a lengthy and controversial tirade excoriating King Fahd of Saudi Arabia for allowing U.S. troops into the holy land — a correspondence that had cost Osama his Saudi citizenship.

The Mauritanian's duties also reached beyond the Sheikh to his sons, helping them memorize the Koran and understand Islamic jurisprudence, acting as their mentor and counselor. His wife and daughters did the same for Osama's wives and girls.

The Mauritanian could, on occasion, play a strategic hand, as he did after Osama's first great international broadside — the August 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, which killed 224 and catapulted Al Qaeda into the spotlight. Afterward, he had helped log and direct the money and recruits that poured in, particularly from donors in the Gulf states.

Toward the end of 1998, while investigating the atrocities, the CIA identified the Mauritanian while hunting down Osama's assets. Suspecting that he had arranged finances for the embassy operations, they tracked him to a hotel in Khartoum, Sudan, but missed him by minutes as he fled out of a kitchen door. Subsequently, he vocally criticized the East Africa attacks for having cost the lives of so many civilians.

When the Mauritanian first picked up rumors about the Planes Operation in 1999, he was infuriated. From what he could discern, many innocent people would be killed, and he sought out the Sheikh to warn him that it was against Islam. Al Qaeda should concentrate its energies on attacking Israel. This operation would also drive a coach and horses through the Taliban's wishes. Mullah Omar had offered Al Qaeda sanctuary when it had none, asking only that Osama refrain from plotting any attacks against America while on Afghan soil. "Our donkey is in the mud," the Taliban's emir had explained, using a Kandahari expression to suggest that his movement was far from full strength. They needed time to achieve legitimacy, to raise funds, recruit, and win international backing. Osama had responded disrespectfully, telling Mullah Omar that "jihad against America is an individual duty and it cannot be given up." If the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was unable to protect him, then he would leave with the women and children and "go for jihad in God's name."

A second Al Qaeda spectacular against the United States in October 2000 — a bomb-laden skiff that had rammed into the side of the USS Cole, an American warship refueling in Aden harbor, Yemen, killing seventeen American sailors — had only made the situation worse.

From that moment on, the two leaders had been on a collision course: Osama, who encouraged his men to see him as a modern incarnation of the Prophet, railing against Mullah Omar, the self-styled Commander of the Faithful, who was frequently talked of as the Caliph of All True Islam.

September 11, 2001, 5:30 p.m., Kandahar

All afternoon, the Mauritanian remained stooped over the radio, skipping channels while his wife and children watched him nervously.

After sunset, the first report came in. A plane had hit a skyscraper in New York City. Then another.

Outside, in darkened Kandahar, a crescendoing cry traveled up and down the street, like a New Year's countdown in Times Square. Then jabbering, laughing, and whooping as people began spilling out of their homes.

September 11, 2001, 6 p.m., Islamabad, Pakistan

Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir was at his office contemplating dinner when an agitated Pashtun visitor arrived at the gate. "I am here with a message from the Sheikh," he whispered over the internal phone.

"Which sheikh?" Mir replied coolly. He knew plenty.

"The Sheikh with the plastic wristwatch," the man replied.

"What are you talking about?" countered Mir, who was in no mood for riddles. Then, he recalled windswept Tarnak Qila and a meeting with Osama bin Laden. He had complimented that sheikh on his wristwatch that sang out prayer times, half-hoping to receive it as a gift.

Mir told the man to come inside.

"Put on the TV," the visitor urged as he entered. "Look, look," he said excitedly, pointing to footage of flames and black smoke pouring from the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

They both watched as a plane hit the South Tower, a fireball flaring. Stunned TV anchors tried to make sense of what they were witnessing, "Oh my goodness, there's another one," said one. "Now it's obvious. This may not be an accident."

The visitor put his hand in his pocket and pulled out a watch.

"A present from the Sheikh," he said, handing it over.

* * *

September 11, 2001, 7 p.m., Rawalpindi, Pakistan

General Javed Alam Khan, a barrel-chested spook in charge of analysis and foreign liaison at Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), was at home following reports of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. He rang the Pakistani embassy in Washington, D.C., even though the line was not secure. "What the hell's going on?" he asked the ISI station chief. "Where's the DG?"

The Washington station chief sounded harried. The ISI director general was in the United States on an official visit, which was good or bad news — depending on whose office he was now in. It would fall to General Khan to brief him on how to handle the Americans.

Khan pulled out a Dunhill cigarette and pushed away his dinner. A pit bull with a locking jaw, he smoked more than he ate. His phone rang. "Sir." The station chief's tone said it all: "The DG's attending a breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill discussing terrorism generated in Afghanistan!" Khan choked on a lungful of smoke.

Someone had to exfiltrate the phlegmatic chief before he did a disservice to the republic. General Mahmud Ahmed hated Americans and had a tendency to lash out when cornered. "Get him to a phone," Khan rasped. "And can someone trace my brother-in-law?" He lived in Manhattan and was not answering his cell phone.

Khan crushed his cigarette, lit another, and reflected on how he was in a job he loathed, facing a shit-storm not of his making. He suspected that soon everyone who mattered would focus on trying to prove his agency's complicity in the unfolding chaos.

A former tank commander, Khan had never sought out this plainclothes desk job, but he had been seconded to the ISI in 1999, and as a patriot, he lived to serve. Most of his family had worn uniforms: a father who served with the British Army in India, one brother in the navy, three in the air force, and five in the army — one of whom had been martyred in the bloodletting of 1971 in which East Pakistan had been torn away and become Bangladesh. The only fillip with this job was the intrigue that went with it and his cordial but combative relationship with his opposite number in the CIA, the forensically minded Islamabad station chief, Robert Grenier.

Short and lean, Grenier had been squeezing Khan for months about the Taliban and Al Qaeda, asking for capillary-level details about religious factions, warlords, and jihad leaders, demonstrating a level of knowledge about Pakistan that he doubted existed about America in the ISI station in D.C.

Khan called for his staff car. He needed to get ahead of Grenier, and the good news was that his side had languages and deep, unctuous connections. They sped along the highway linking army-dominated Rawalpindi to its twin city, the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. "Aabpara," he hissed at the driver, naming the hulking gray spy complex that dominated the G-7/4 district.

As the car pulled up at ISI headquarters, Khan was greeted by a phalanx of senior officials "standing with their mouths open" like Venus flytraps waiting for a feeding.

"Shut those," he shouted, "and use these." He raised a dialing finger. Taking a long drag on his cigarette, he stomped inside.

September 11, 2001, 7 p.m., Diplomatic Zone, Islamabad

Three and a half miles northeast, beyond the civic runway of Constitution Avenue, Robert Grenier was sitting in his fortress within a fortress watching footage of people jumping from the burning World Trade Center towers. At the U.S. embassy, a nest of buildings encircled with razor wire and surveillance cameras, the CIA station occupied its own warren, accessed through doors with coded locks.

Grenier was already focused on one man, the same one he had been tracking for the past two years, flooding bazaars and villages on the Afghan border with matchbooks printed with his picture and advertising a $5 million reward.

Although Grenier did not trust the ISI's General Khan, he now desperately needed Pakistan's help as all previous attempts to interdict Osama had been disastrous. One intervention attempted with the CIA's blessing and that had gone disastrously wrong was to send Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief to visit Mullah Omar shortly after Osama had issued his first fatwa against the West, announcing that "the killing of Americans and their allies, both civilians and military, is a duty for every Muslim."

Arriving on a Boeing 747 belonging to the Saudi Arabian royal family, an extraordinary sight in Kandahar, where all international flights had long since stopped, Prince Turki al-Faisal had confronted the Taliban emir, Muslim to Muslim, demanding he hand over Osama and his family. Mullah Omar had reacted badly, sickened to see a prince of an Islamic state doing what he considered to be the bidding of the West.

"Where is your zeal to religion and the sanctity of Islam?" Omar asked the prince quietly. "Are you sent by your country or by the Americans?"

As a generous benefactor of Islamic causes the world over and a well-practiced interlocutor, the prince was not used to being called out, and according to the Mauritanian, who witnessed the scene, he exploded. The Mauritanian recalled how Turki stamped all over the feast that had been laid out in his honor on the floor, knocking over teacups. "Do you want me to deliver a believer to an unbeliever?" asked Mullah Omar quietly.

In 1999, Grenier had tried again after the ISI chief before General Ahmed clawed a potential jewel out of the Kandahari mud by securing the tentative blessing of Mullah Omar to abduct Osama from Afghanistan. Many Afghanis had died when U.S cruise missiles had rained down on his country as a result of the U.S. embassy attacks and he made it clear that he would not stand in the way if the ISI deployed ninety retired Pakistani commandos to seize Osama at Tarnak Qila.

However, in October 1999, shortly before the plan could be actioned, the malleable civilian government of Pakistan was toppled by army chief General Pervez Musharraf, a putsch that saw the Western-leaning ISI chief (who was running the Osama kidnapping operation) slung in jail and replaced by zealot General Mahmud Ahmed. A portcullis dropped on ISI — CIA relations. Overnight, Grenier's "in" ran out, as Peshawar-born Ahmed, who distrusted the Americans for their "on-off" support of Pakistan during and after the Soviet war of the 1980s, shuttered Aabpara against foreigners. It would be three months before Grenier was even allowed back inside the building, and when he did get an invitation, his recommendation to revive the plan deploying former commandos to nab Osama was mocked by Ahmed, who told him: "In my experience those who are retired are tired."

Ahmed was strong-armed by pragmatist Musharraf into visiting Washington soon after, but irreparable damage had been done. After U.S officials ruffled his feathers by accusing him of supporting Al Qaeda and being "in bed with those who threaten us," the affronted ISI chief, who despised what he considered to be America's lack of a fingertip-feel for Pakistan, had returned home telling friends that he was "born again as a Muslim." An exasperated Grenier wrote strongly worded cables back to CIA headquarters, asking them to back off: "The new guy's not pro Al Qaeda. He's pro-Taliban." One was a terrorist outfit, while the other, the Pakistan Army chiefs based in Rawalpindi liked to believe, offered them strategic depth.

Langley ignored Grenier's advice and set out to track Osama without Pakistan's help. In September 2000, the first unarmed Predator drone flew over Afghanistan and within days it had captured real-time footage of the Al Qaeda leader walking around Tarnak Qila, encircled by guards.

Pictures seduced generals at the Pentagon, Grenier thought. They seemed to offer the prospect of risk-free rapid victories. But overheard conversations and fuzzy photographs were useless unless they guided some kind of physical force, deniable or otherwise, able to target Osama on the ground.

In an attempt to restore relations with the ISI, in August 2001 Grenier had helped to bring a U.S. congressional delegation to Islamabad to meet General Musharraf and spy chief General Ahmed. The meetings had gone badly.

Now that 9/11 was under way and Ahmed was trapped in Washington as all flights in and out of the country were grounded, Grenier hoped U.S officials were making best use of his enforced presence.

Sitting in the dark watching news reports of the attacks in the United States on his TV, he called ISI analysis chief General Javed Alam Khan, one vulture circling another.

"It's going to be a long night," Grenier said.

Khan grunted. His brother-in-law and family were still missing in New York. "How could one chap sitting in an Afghan cave be commanding things all over the world?" he muttered disingenuously.

Grenier resisted the bait.

September 11, 2001, 7:15 p.m., Karachi, Pakistan

General Pervez Musharraf was inspecting the well-tended gardens of Mazar-e-Quaid, the Moorish-style mausoleum for Pakistan's founding father, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, when his military secretary informed him of the news from the United States. His thoughts turned immediately to the World Trade Center attack of 1993. He grimaced as he recalled how that plot had led back to Islamabad, where mastermind Ramzi Yousef was run to ground, the arrest implying a link between Pakistan and the first World Trade Center attack.

Having recently appointed himself Pakistan's president and head of state, Musharraf could not afford a repeat of the 1993 debacle. But rather than deal with the situation immediately, he zoned out the news and barreled into a scheduled meeting at his fortified bungalow in the exclusive Zamzama district of Karachi.

His staff officers, who were watching TV in a side room, tried to interrupt. But Musharraf made it clear that he should not be disturbed, so they loitered outside until both towers collapsed in New York, at which point his military secretary entered the room and started fiddling with the general's TV set. "What's the urgency?" Musharraf bridled.

"Please! Watch, sir," the officer said.

Musharraf felt queasy. "America is going to react violently," he muttered. If the perpetrator of these attacks turned out to be Al Qaeda, which had been allowed to traverse Pakistan for more than a decade, the United States would come straight down the middle lane looking for a strike.

But that was only a first impression. He made a quick back-of-the-cigarette-packet calculation. This appalling tragedy could be an opportunity for a cool strategist who two years earlier had brought his country to the brink of nuclear war with India, when it suited, only to let tensions die back again.

In a region that was always underpinned by uncertainty, Pakistan could once again become a staging post, as it had been in the 1980s, for the funds, munitions, and matériel imported by the West, Musharraf reasoned. Throughout the 1990s, the United States had snubbed the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in favor of trade deals with India, shuttering defense spending and throttling diplomatic ties. There had been times when Islamabad had felt like Pyongyang, he told himself. But now that America had been attacked on its own soil, the possibilities were legion. He could also use this momentous day to choke thorny elements within his own military and intelligence apparatus — especially the radicals and career Islamists who ran the secret beehive of jihad from the ISI's strategic S-Wing.

Musharraf considered his vulnerabilities. There were so many; but among his inner circle of advisers the weakest link was his ISI chief, General Mahmud Ahmed, whose religious conservatism the army had once actively encouraged but given what was unfolding in the United States now seemed out of step.

"Get Mahmud on the phone," Musharraf shouted.

"Everyone is already looking for him," came the reply.

When the general finally called in, Musharraf asked him to listen, and say nothing. There was no such thing as a secure line in Pakistan. "Don't argue with them," he instructed. "Offer condolences. They need to hear that they have our unqualified support."


Excerpted from The Exile by Cathy Scott-Clark, Adrian Levy. Copyright © 2017 Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy. Excerpted by permission of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Map xii

Preface xv

1 "Shit. I think we bit off more than we could chew." 1

2 "Terrorism is a duty and assassination is a Sunnah." 37

3 "These Arabs … they have killed Afghans. They have trained their guns on Afghan lives … We want them out." 80

4 "Poor ones, this is not how revenge is, or will be." 120

5 "The banging was so strong that I felt at some point that my skull was in pieces." 169

6 "If you bid us plunge into the ocean, we would follow you." 211

7 "The reprisals of the mujahideen shall come like lightning bolts." 257

8 "We will get you, CIA team, inshallah, we will bring you down." 290

9 "I'm back with the people I was with before." 338

10 "We go to a house, we fuck with some people, and we leave. This is just a longer flight." 377

11 "What really happened doesn't matter if there is an official story behind it that 99.999% of the world would believe." 408

12 "It is going to be worse when my father dies. The world is going to be very, very nasty … it will be a disaster." 455

13 "It will be just the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end." 485

Acknowledgments 507

Brief Biographies of Major Characters 511

Bibliography 525

Notes 533

Index 599

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews