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Foreign Policy Forum

The Bin Laden Papers: Exposing the U.S. Misunderstanding of Terrorism


Nelly Lahoud, Associate Professor, Department of National Security and Strategy, U.S. Army War College, and Senior Fellow, New America's International Security program

September 26, 2023

Event begins at 5:30pm

Registration is closed for this event.


In early May 2011, U.S. Special Operations Forces raided Usama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, where he was hiding and ended his leadership of al-Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the 9/11 attacks. How accurate were U.S. assessments of al-Qaeda’s capabilities and its leader’s plans?  A national expert on al-Qaeda, Dr. Lahoud distilled the nearly 6,000 Arabic pages of Bin Laden’s private communications that were retrieved during the Abbottabad raid. Her book, The Bin Laden Papers: How the Abbottabad Raid Revealed the Truth about Al-Qaeda, Its Leader and His Family, shows a disparity between the U.S. assessment of al-Qaeda and the actual reality of the group and its leader. Her findings further highlight the ongoing challenge that the U.S. national security apparatus grapples with: How can we gain an understanding of terrorism to counter it effectively?

The Bin Laden Papers will be available for purchase, and at the conclusion of the program, Dr. Lahoud will hold a brief book signing. You can watch Dr. Lahoud discuss her findings on 60 Minutes here.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, Nelly Lahoud’s research interest in the Islamic tradition led her to focus on the ideology and evolution of al-Qaeda and the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS/ISIL). She is currently an associate professor in the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College and a senior fellow in New America’s International Security program. She has a Ph.D. from the Research School of Social Sciences — Australian National University. She was a postdoctoral scholar at St. John’s College, University of Cambridge — UK; Rockefeller Fellow in Islamic studies at the Library of Congress; and research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University. Her previous appointments include being associate professor at the Department of Social Sciences and senior associate at the Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point; and assistant professor of political theory at Goucher College.

Terrorism pic


Non-Members $25; Members $15; Students admitted free with support from the Dr. and Mrs. Wael and Sawssan Khoury Students’ Fund.



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