Hunting in the Shadows

Title:                      Hunting in the Shadows

Author:                 Seth G. Jones

Jones, Seth G. (2012). Hunting in the Shadows: The Pursuit of Al Qa’ida Since 9/11. New York: W.W. Norton & Co

LCCN:    2012000108

HV6432.5.Q2 J66 2012


Date Posted:      February 16, 2016

Reviewed by Hayden Peake.[1]

Author Seth Jones is a senior political analyst at the RAND Corporation, where he specializes in counterinsurgency and counterterrorism. His RAND biography points out that he focuses on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and al-Qaeda, and that he has served as the representative of the commander of the US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) to the assistant secretary of defense for special operations. He has also been an adviser to the US military on special operations in Afghanistan. Hunting in the Shadows treats the US and UK reactions to 9/11.

The first chapter is important for two reasons. First, it tells the story of Operation OVERT, a successful joint US-UK effort to prevent a terrorist group based in England from blowing up multiple civilian aircraft over the Atlantic in 2006. This served as “a harbinger of things to come.” (p. 22) And what was to come included a surprising number of terrorist acts, planned and attempted but seldom heard about. Jones describes very well the disciplined and complex efforts ‘of counterterrorist and intelligence authorities to deal with these dangers. Second, the chapter introduces the concept of “al-Qa’ida waves and reverse waves,” which Jones uses to explain surges and reductions in levels of terrorist activity since al-Qa’ida was created in 1988.

The remainder of the book is separated into four parts, each dealing with one of the four waves he discusses and the principal terrorists involved. Part I describes the first wave, which peaked with the 9/11 attacks. It introduces the major Islamic players and tells how, despite differing goals and views on how to implement jihad against the West, they developed and implemented attacks to kill Americans. It also includes a description of JAWBREAKER, CIA’s entry into Afghanistan after 9/11, the domestic terrorist threat (including the unrepentant shoe bomber, Richard Reid), other responses to 9/11, and the reactions of Pakistan to US activities. Part I ends as al-Qa’ida regroups-surprised by the American response to 9/11-and makes new plans.

Part II deals with al-Qa’ida in Iraq and Pakistan, the Madrid and London attacks, and the attempts of its allies to counterattack in Afghanistan. There is also an interesting section on radicalization in the West, illustrated by the story of Adam Gadahn (Azzam the American). Part II ends as al-Qa’ida’s popularity in the Muslim world fell to a low point in 2004, due mainly to its decision to kill civilians in Iraq.

Part III covers the third wave, including al-Qa’ida’s struggle to reestablish its leadership, the rise of com-petition in Yemen and Africa, the curious case of David Headley and his links to the Pakistani terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and a brief summary of the operation that ended with the death of Osama bin Laden.

Discussion of the fourth wave takes only a few pages It is a wave that hasn’t yet occurred, but Jones thinks it will. He writes that the “West’s record of learning from past success and failures has been mixed, and policymakers have tended to be unsympathetic in their analysis and shortsighted in their strategies.” (p. 437) He suggests “three steps” that he thinks will help prevent this fourth wave. Jones’ style makes for an easy read, and he does more than just provide facts. He adds background—geographic, societal, and political—in each case and explains the often complicated personal relationships among many players. Thus the reader gets a sense of the reality the terrorists create for themselves-a reality that does not necessarily make sense by Western standards.

This is a fine, well-documented book, with essential background for anyone trying to get a better grasp on the terrorist age.

[1] Hayden Peake is a frequent reviewer of books on intelligence and this review appeared in The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies (19, 1, Winter/Spring, 2013, p. 109). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Di recto rate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. These and many other reviews and articles may be found on line at

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