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My 18 Year Odyssey on the Trail of Osama bin Laden

August 24, 2011 |
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I have covered the story of violent jihadism for the past 18 years, and, more than anything else, it has been a slow process of discovery. Looking back, it seems clear to me that, at any given moment in the story, there was always so much we didn’t know.

Al Qaeda was founded in 1988 in Pakistan, although it wasn’t until 2002—when the minutes of the group’s first meetings were discovered by chance in the offices of an Islamist organization in Sarajevo—that the facts surrounding its origins were well-understood. Meanwhile, I first became interested in militant Islam in February 1993, when the World Trade Center was bombed. The common thread that linked most of the plotters—who included South Asians and Arabs as well as Americans—was that they had some connection to the Afghan civil war. I pitched my bosses at CNN on the idea of going to Afghanistan to try to scope out the connection between that country and the bombing.

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