“Peter Bergen, who will be speaking at the Bob Graham Center on Oct. 12, was the first Western journalist to produce a television interview with Osama Bin Laden in 1997. That CNN interview marked the first time that bin Laden declared war against the United States to a Western audience. His latest book, “The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict Between America and al-Qaeda,” is a masterful history of the war that began with the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Speaking before the Senate in May, Bergen offered a strong defense of the U.S. role in Afghanistan, and a fairly optimistic appraisal of the state of al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden’s death. “In America, only 17 percent of Americans think their country is going in the right direction,” Bergen told the Senate. “Fifty-nine percent of Afghans think their country is going in the right direction because they know life is better than it was under the Taliban during the civil war, during the Soviet occupation.”
“So our partnership is with the Afghan people, who know that their lives are getting better, can see that the advantages are not living under the Taliban,” Bergen continued. “And they want us to stay. They were very concerned about us leaving in July of this year. And the fact that we put December 2014 on the clock is something that they're very happy about.”
Bergen seems to feel there is little chance of al-Qaida recovering from bin Laden’s death.
“When you joined the Nazi party, you swore a personal oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler, not to Naziism,” Bergen explained. “When Adolf Hitler died, Naziism basically died with it. It's not an exact analogy, but when you joined al-Qaida, you swore a personal oath of allegiance to bin Laden. No one else can fit into his shoes. Ayman al-Zawahiri, if he took over, it would be great, because he would drive what remains of the organization into the ground.”