“Counterstrike, by the New York Times national security reporters Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, is a carefully reported, briskly paced account of the counterterrorism campaigns that followed the September 11th attacks, and it provides a reliable sense of what has gone right, without cheerleading or obfuscating about failures. The book is particularly strong on the period since 2007, including the stepped-up effort to dismantle al-Qaeda’s core leadership among the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Schmitt and Shanker bring forward new details about how these intelligence-led operations have worked despite the breakdown in trust between the CIA and the principal Pakistani intelligence service, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.”
—The New York Review of Books
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"As detailed by Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker in the book Counterstrike, initial assumptions about both deterrence and the enemy were overly simplistic '[d]eterrence is a strategic interaction in which an actor prevents an adversary from taking an action that the adversary otherwise would have taken by convincing the adversary that the cost of taking that action will outweigh any potential gains.'"
—Forbes.com read more »
"The authors, veteran correspondents for The New York Times, delve into a shadowy theater of war: the counterterrorism efforts of American ground troops, intelligence operatives and executive-branch officials since the Sept. 11 attacks."
—The New York Times Book Review read more »
"The authors are New York Times reporters covering the national security beat, and their virtuosity is impressive in unearthing interesting details and crafting a narrative arc that explains an enormous swath of information over time. They show the experimentation and refinement over time of our government’s approach to terrorism, and their account is true to the degree of difficulty involved and fair to the hard choices that were made in the Bush and Obama administrations."
, hoover.org read more »
"Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker are two consummate national security reporters at the New York Times and their approach to this daunting subject is refreshing and important."
—The Book Review Editor
, LawfareBlog.com read more »
"Counterstrike's chapter on the exploitation of intelligence provides a historical accounting of the importance of understanding that every operation (diplomatic, military, economic, etc.) is also an intelligence-gathering and -expanding operation. This is an old truth the authors admirably illustrate."
, Creators.com read more »
"It is more than Beltway fashion that has banished the phrase “Global War on Terror” intelligent conversation. Counterstrike, written by two veteran New York Times Pentagon correspondents, goes a long way toward explaining this lexicological exile. Indeed, GWOT doesn’t even appear in the book’s index; rather, Schmitt and Shanker make quick work of the the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and focus instead on the reaction of the gigantic military-intelligence complex when it dawned upon senior Bush administration officials that the U.S. was losing not one but two wars simultaneously."
, Slate.com : Books for the Discerning Stocking
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"The authors pull the recent years’ ‘war on terror’ together in a really good narrative"
—Jackie Calmes, The New York Times read more »
"Counterstrike: The Untold Story of America’s Secret Campaign Against Al Qaeda, is not just another book about Sept. 11, Iraq or Afghanistan. Rather, it focuses on the various military and civilian agency responses to terrorism. Along with insights gleaned from some of the biggest names in the business the reporters also talk to lesser-known, and usually more informed and informative, government officials who do much of the heavy lifting on counterterrorism."
, The New York Times and author of A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism read more »
"Counterstrike scores a direct hit. Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, two of America's most respected national security correspondents, provide pathbreaking reporting on and incisive analysis of the secret war against Al Qaeda after 9/11. This cogent history of America's elusive search for a strategy – essential reading for specialists and concerned citizens alike – should inform our national debate on how best to counter this most urgent threat."
—Lee H. Hamilton, former congressman and co-chair of the 9/11 Commission
"Counterstrike” is a study of how the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement communities picked themselves up and dusted themselves off following the 9/11 attacks. The book points to an unheralded group of underlings who actually laced together an effective strategy for dealing with terrorism, particularly in the final years of the Bush administration and into the Obama presidency.
, Minneapolis Star-Tribune read more »
"The pair further put flesh on the bones of our counterterrorism campaign by highlighting key milestones such as the raids on al-Qaeda leaders and safehouses in places like Taji and Sinjar in Iraq. These battlefield details show the reader how policy initiatives and technology developed in Washington and elsewhere actually played out on the ground, and how the treasure trove of intelligence gained from such operations then, in turn, helped our policies shift and enhanced our knowledge of al-Qaida's operations and leadership.
, ForeignPolicy.com read more »
Now comes an assessment by two seasoned New York Times correspondents, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker. In Counterstrike, they explore what the United States has done right against al-Qaeda, what it has done wrong and how well the country is positioned to face what is likely to come in this “age of violent, religious extremism.” A key question raised throughout the book is whether strategies that were deployed against the Soviet Union in the Cold War can deter terrorist movements today.
, The Washington Post read more »
"In Counterstrike, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker, reporters for the New York Times, warn that another catastrophic terrorist event is inevitable, but their behind-the-scenes account of the evolution of U.S. counterterrorism strategy gives officials the highest marks. Cast as a spy thriller, it profiles analysts who pushed after 9/11 for new ideas and for the transformation of a dysfunctional bureaucracy that one source likened to "a drunken octopus trying to solve a Rubik's Cube."
—Robert D. Crews,
The Philly Inquirer, read more »
"Schmitt and Shanker, national security correspondents for the New York Times, draw upon a decade of reporting and hundreds of interviews for this behind-the-scenes account of the "evolution of strategic thinking" since the September 11 attacks. The authors point out that the Bush administration's initial strategy of "capture or kill" was based on the notion that traditional concepts of deterrence could not be applied to the terrorist threat. Schmitt and Shanker's straightforward analysis of counterterrorism strategy should appeal to anyone who wants to understand the parameters of the ongoing fight against terrorism."
—Publishers Weekly, read more »
"A remarkable detective story by two of the nation's best reporters. With meticulous research and fine storytelling, Counterstrike reveals who, what, when, where, and why in describing the long campaign by the United States government to demolish Al Qaeda and ultimately to kill Osama bin Laden."
—Rick Atkinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of An Army at Dawn
"Counterstrike lays bare the provocative new ideas that are driving the war on terrorism. Generals often talk about changing the hearts and minds of people in faraway lands, but Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker reveal the importance of changing the hearts and minds of America's defense strategists. This is a groundbreaking intellectual history that is also a great read."
—Jessica Stern, author of Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill
"Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker dig deep to tell the story of the covert campaign to defeat Al Qaeda, from the CIA to the Pentagon. Counterstrike is a richly reported work that is a seminal account of the battle between America and Al Qaeda since 9/11."
—Peter Bergen, author of The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and Al-Qaeda
"Filled with amazing characters and details, Counterstrike traces the evolution of America's strategy for stopping the next attack. It's a fascinating story and a great read, too."
—Dexter Filkins, author of The Forever War
"Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker have written a brilliant and important account of America's battle with Al Qaeda. It is an exceptional work in that it truly addresses strategic issues and not just the tactical fight. There are critical insights and recommendations provided in this book that make it a must-read for all those who want to understand how we must deal with this complex threat."
—General Anthony C. Zinni, USMC (retired)