The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America's War in Arabia

Publication Year



A gripping account of how al-Qaeda in Yemen rebounded from an initial defeat to once again threaten the United States.

Far from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States and al-Qaeda are fighting a clandestine war of drones and suicide bombers in an unforgiving corner of Arabia.

The Last Refuge charts the rise, fall, and resurrection of al-Qaeda in Yemen over the last thirty years, detailing how a group that the United States once defeated has now become one of the world’s most dangerous threats. An expert on Yemen who has spent years on the ground there, Gregory D. Johnsen uses al-Qaeda’s Arabic battle notes to reconstruct their world as they take aim at the United States and its allies. Johnsen brings readers in-side al-Qaeda’s training camps and safe houses as the terrorists plot poison attacks and debate how to bring down an airliner on Christmas Day. The Last Refuge is an eye-opening look at the successes and failures of fighting a new type of war in one of the most turbulent countries in the world.

Endorsements & Reviews

“Gregory Johnsen has written a break-through book on one of the most under-reported and misunderstood stories of the post 9-11 era. Penned in gripping prose and with incredible attention to detail, The Last Refuge unfolds with the pace of an action novel. But this story is all too true. If we ignore the widening covert war in Yemen and fail to learn from its complicated history, we do so at our own peril. Years from now, Johnsen will be seen as one of the few who got it right.” — Jeremy Scahill, author of the international bestseller, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army

“Gregory Johnsen, an authority on Yemen and jihadist extremists, has delivered in The Last Refuge a wonderfully well written and deeply reported account of the only al-Qaeda affiliate that continues to pose a real threat to the West.” — Peter L. Bergen, author of Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Osama bin Laden from 9/11 to Abbottabad

“Gregory Johnsen has written the best new book on al Qaeda in 2012 and the best book on Yemen in years.... The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al Qaeda and America’s War in Arabia is a detailed narrative account of the development of [Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula]. It is also a great read...” — Bruce Riedel, Daily Beast

The Last Refuge is an authoritative and deftly written account of al-Qaeda’s Yemeni incarnation. The book is dense with terrorist genealogies, but it also offers a lively portrait of the American government’s stumbling efforts to understand and influence a profoundly alien culture. His account, starting in the 1980s, implicitly places Yemen near the center of the global jihadi movement; it may not be where al-Qaeda started, but it has always furnished many of the movement’s foot soldiers, and it has now succeeded Afghanistan as the US government’s most urgent concern about counterterrorism.” — Robert R. Worth, The New York Review of Books

W. W. Norton
New York
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