KBL: KILL BIN LADEN is a riveting, hang-on-to-your-seat novel based on fact. To the average American citizen, this story, as told here, could be the real event. The many facets of preparation for the mission John Weisman describes involve numerous chains of command in the hierarchy of planned warfare. The major decision-makers --- the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, directors of the CIA and special operations managers from each of the armed forces --- weave together a complicated mission. From meetings in the boardroom to actual events on the ground, the players in the drama prepare themselves well for the stealth operation they will perform.
"KBL: KILL BIN LADEN is a riveting, hang-on-to-your-seat novel based on fact."
We first meet Charlie Becker, an amputee who rolls himself on a makeshift cart in the city of Abbottabad, Pakistan. Charlie is deep undercover for the CIA and passes himself off as an Arab beggar who is wounded fighting the infidels. At present, he winds throughout the city, never taking the same route twice, because of possible surveillance by the Pakistani ISI, the intelligence service. Charlie has lost weight, eating only broth and gruel he begs for in his daily meanderings. His mission is to watch a certain compound in Abbotabad, owned by the Khan brothers, wealthy men known to be couriers for the mass terrorist Usama Bin Laden.
His intelligence reports will conclude for certain that Bin Laden resides in this compound. ISI has stepped up its watch patterns in the area, in and out of the city, another reason to think Bin Laden is there. Fluent in Pashto, Charlie visits with local shop owners and participates in tea with one in particular. Becker sleeps on a damp pallet behind the shopkeepers’ stall, a perfect place to put his high-tech surveillance equipment to use. His findings ultimately will lead to an assault on the compound by a highly trained group of Army Rangers and Navy Seals known as Seal Team 6.
Not only does Weisman introduce readers to individual members of the SEAL team, he allows us to sit in on the many briefings taking place in the White House as plans begin to unfold. The generals and brass who initiate the detailed minutia are dedicated to their belief that this is the time to attack and kill the master terrorist. POTUS, the term for the President of the United States, is surrounded by political strategists who put more stock in their man’s re-election than making an international play. The Secretary of State, though trotting about on business for the White House much of the time, has been kept informed and agrees with the military brass and Cabinet members who want to launch an attack. When final fail-safe plans are drawn up, the work is tough for the military group to convince the President to act. After plans have been submitted, a decision is imminent. However, the White House delays the word in order to receive results of a vague straw poll taken by his aides. Politics shroud progress even until the final minute.
Weisman’s fictional Navy SEAL Team 6, beset with failure on a previous mission, is nonetheless the group chosen. We meet members of the elite group, follow them in daily workouts, and train with them in replicated details of the actual drop into a sovereign country, an ally. Because the Pakistanis have an ambivalent history, no word of the invasion is to leak. Thus, Becker’s presence in Abbottabad is critical to the success of the covert activity. Many similar drop/kill missions have preceded this one, and without incident. Due to the high level of secrecy now, the crew is not informed of their target until minutes before helicopters drop them into the field that surrounds the compound. Bin Laden is believed to reside there with his wives and several children, along with the Khan families. The plan has allowed for the disposal of Bin Laden’s body if he is killed, the ultimate objective.
A last thought before landing by a team member: “They’d get in and out without a hitch. Tonight it would all go the way it should.” Names have been changed from the original players in the high-stakes game played out in KBL: KILL BIN LADEN. However, readers fantasize about the actual confrontations between the White House and military leaders with a sense of reality. Weisman delivers detailed coverage of military briefings, training exercises that mirror the actual raid, and conversations that might have taken place within inner circles. At first, names and titles interrupted the story’s flow. But it’s not too long before one’s attention is strictly focused on the daring raid. By the time the “Diamond” (or Crankshaft) meets his fate, the audience is ready to wave the Red, White and Blue. Navy Seals, unnamed and uncelebrated as individuals, become the new national heroes.
Reviewed by Judy Gigstad on January 12, 2012