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A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan

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A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan

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    Available in PDF Format | A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan.pdf | English
    James Fergusson(Author)
In April 2006 a small British peace-keeping force was sent to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. Within weeks they were cut off and besieged by some of the world’s toughest fighters: the infamous Taliban, who were determined to send the foreigners home again. Defence Secretary John Reid had hoped that Operation Herrick 4 could be accomplished without a shot being fired; instead, the Army was drawn into the fiercest fighting it had seen for fifty years. Millions of bullets and thousands of lives have been expended since then in an under-publicized but bitter conflict whose end is still not in sight. Some people consider it the fourth Anglo-Afghan War since Victorian times. How on earth did this happen? And what is it like for the troops on the front line of the ‘War on Terror’? James Fergusson takes us to the dark heart of the battle zone. Here, in their own words and for the first time, are the young veterans of Herrick 4. Here, unmasked, are the civilian and military officials responsible for planning and executing the operation. Here, too, are the Taliban themselves, to whom Fergusson gained unique and extraordinary access. Controversial, fascinating and occasionally downright terrifying, A Million Bullets analyses the sorry slide into war in Helmand and asks this most troubling question: could Britain perhaps have avoided the violence altogether?

The only thoughtful and informed book to come out of the UK's venture into Helmand -- Royal United Services Institute JournalA riveting, blistering, deeply reported narrative of the recent British military interventions in Afghanistan. -- Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc. and The Osama bin Laden I KnowAn exemplary book that should be required reading for policymakers and commanders alike.-- Anthony LLoyd, The TimesHis account cannot be ignored by anyone seriously interested in the future of the British armed forces. -- Douglas Hurdan exemplary book that should be required reading for policymakers and commanders alike.-- Antony Loyd, The Times

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Book details

  • PDF | 368 pages
  • James Fergusson(Author)
  • Bantam Press (2 Jun. 2008)
  • English
  • 4
  • History

Review Text

  • By T Westcott on 7 May 2009

    Just finished reading this book, and I take my hat off to the author, who has written an extremely well-researched account mostly of the events of 2006 in Helmand Province but which has been updated fairly recently (the author's note dated January 2009).I doubt if A Million Bullets was conceived as a polemic, but it does read like one: the UK is up the neck in a military operation it can ill afford (both in terms of the cost in terms of young human life and limb and the colossal monetary cost of the equipment and munitions expended).As the book shows, "mission creep" set in almost as soon as the UK forces deployed in the country in 2006, to shore up the multinational US-led mission and the fragile democratic government. Troops were deployed in the far north of Helmand in so-called platoon houses which became mini-Alamos and the focus of determined attacks by the Taliban, locals and have-a-go jihadis. Or as a general puts it, "tethered goats".This is so much more than a McNab-style account of guts and glory, but because Fergusson interviewed large numbers of soldiers of all ranks, it's often a gripping squad-level depiction of the action. Much of it, as Fergusson notes, was barely reported in a war that Ministry of Defence has adeptly spoon-fed through embedded correspondents but which can also be followed - after a fashion - on the first-hand footage posted by soldiers on YouTube.Fergusson has also spoken to senior officers and development officials and even - at great risk to himself - a group of Taliban leaders who treat him hospitably and make the rationale behind the invasion seem decidedly weak. The idea was to facilitate the reconstruction of a country racked by years of war - but, just as in Iraq, the west seems to have made the security situation even worse, not better.Clearly the soldiers are doing an incredible job despite muddled strategy, often unsuitable equipment (vehicles with no air conditioning, lightly-armoured Land Rovers), and not enough soldiers (the war they are fighting requires boots on the ground - without enough ground troops the Coalition is over dependent on air power which makes the risk of civilian casualties higher).This is certainly not a defeatist book - the Taliban can hardly be said to have the upper hand - but it sounds alarm bells about where the operation is going. Even the head of the army says that if the British Army is forced to continue the same tempo of operations for many years to come, there soon won't be an army. Fergusson notes that numbers are diminishing and recruitment is slow.Serious though these issues are, this is much more that a book about the military - if you have any interest in modern politics, you should read it. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

  • By P. A. KRIJGSMAN on 29 December 2008

    This book is courageous in more ways than one. First and foremost, the author has exposed himself to danger in researching his story, which is something that deserves the reader's respect. Second, he hasn't made black and white judgements on either side of the conflict. This might upset the Daily Mail (especially JF's effort to understand the motives of the Taliban), but at heart it is an intelligent approach that assumes the reader can make his/her own mind up (or try to). It is a rare example of honest and old-fashioned rapportage that does not offer prescriptions but informs the prescriptive process. Like many of us, JF has huge sympathy for the professional soldier and somewhat less for the motives and actions of the politicians who deploy him (and, increasingly, her). The accounts of military action and technology in difficult terrain are as gripping as any adventure story, although like the war itself there is no satisfying conclusion, only a disturbing sense that mistakes have been made in the name of western nations. I am no military historian, but I find nothing especially surprising in the notion of soldiers doing their best but repeatedly tripping over the bootlaces of organisational challenges, inadequate supplies and other shortcomings. These and other themes were covered brilliantly in Dixon's "Psycholoigy of Military Incompetence". However Fergusson updates them in a contemporaneous context, which soldiers and politicians alike should find an instructive addition to Dixon's work.

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