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Ask Forgiveness Not Permission [Paperback]

Howard Leedham
4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Oct 2012
On retirement from an unusual military career Howard Leedham settled in the USA with his American wife and successfully flew executive jets until...He was recruited in 2003 by the US State Department's Airwing (which operates an international fleet of aircraft engaged in counter-terrorism and anti-narcotics operations). Despite being British, the author had the unusual skills they required. Howard's specific brief was to activate a fleet of anti-terrorist helicopters given to the Pakistan armed forces but which had been embargoed and never properly used. This was easier said than done. Howard had to win over opposition from inside the State Department and in particular from their Islamabad Embassy, and also dispel the suspicions of the Pakistani Armed Forces. The helicopters were released and brought up to the high standard of mechanical and operational maintenance required - no mean achievement in itself. Despite finding doors closed to senior Pakistani officers and being constantly told that the appropriate general was much too busy to see him, Howard made his mark by offering to stand outside the general's toilet door and tell him about his plans! This tactic worked, he had his meeting (not in the toilet) and he was given command of twenty-five Pathan soldiers to train in Special Forces tactics and helicopter skills. Next he had to win his soldiers' confidence. Howard did this with great success and he was given a further 25 Pathans. They became an amazingly loyal team and the book describes in detail several very successful discreet operations; and the occasional failure or withdrawn patrol - often because of leaked information. Howard had to do all this while under great personal threat. How could he tell who was a friend and who was a foe - even among his own troops? His ultimate success in anti-terrorist operations can be measured by two factors: o The US State Department, with Congressional and Embassy approval, allocated more helicopters. o His farewell party in a desert tent for just his Pathans and his helicopter crews had over 1,500 soldiers guarding the perimeter. All this came at a personal price - on completing his mission Howard's marriage broke up and he was nearly killed by a bomb on a subsequent visit to Islamabad.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Bene Factum Publishing (30 Oct 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1903071674
  • ISBN-13: 978-1903071670
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 152,607 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Frederick Forsyth writes in his Foreword: "The hitherto unknown story that Howard Leedham has to tell could have come from the Northwest Frontier of Rudyard Kipling's time - The year described in these pages cost him his marriage and (several times) almost his life - Somehow it happened. Somehow, on a shoestring, the helicopter-borne, night fighting intervention force began to frighten the black turbans out of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and opium barons - And his Pathans - Those fifty dark featured, tough, lean, hard warriors, as dangerous as the land that made them - for a few months led by an infidel Britisher, they terrified those whose only language was terror. Kipling would have loved them." "This one is different: a cracking read and unlike many other books currently available about the war in Afghanistan and its environs - I recommend this book heartily to all." - ARRSE (ARmy Rumour SErvice) "If you're looking for Christmas or birthday present ideas, I strongly recommend you put this book - onto your wish list. This true account reads like adventure fiction - All you have to do is manipulate someone into buying you this book. You will not regret it." - FAAOA (Fleet Air Arm Officers Association)

About the Author

By any standards Howard Leedham's military career is unusual. He started life as Royal Navy clearance diver, was commissioned, became a Commando helicopter pilot and then served in the Special Forces. Twice decorated for gallantry, he also became the first British officer to command a US Marine Corps squadron on active service. Today Howard lives and works in London.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

4.9 out of 5 stars
4.9 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A window into a clandestine world 31 Oct 2012
This is a must buy book as it tells a unique human story set in a dramatic super human situation.

The key to this book is that you get the whole story not just the no guts no glory usual tale, but the political pressures and complexities and the divided loyalties of a soldier with a family.
By having this information you can place yourself more realistically in his shoes and you are willing him to get through it all and get back.

Seldom are we allowed to see what goes on in the secret world of the special forces but even less frequently are we allowed to see the soldiers as human beings and their struggle with the family/forces split.

I genuinely can't recommend the book too highly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
I love it when individuals whom I know and respect write books that make a difference. "Ask Forgiveness Not Permission" is just such a book. Howard Leedham, a much-decorated British Commando - helicopter pilot, clearance diver, special ops officer - was tapped by the U.S. State Department to run a special program in Pakistan. There was a pressing need to try to seal the porous border with Afghanistan being utilized by narco-terrorists. Al-Qaeda and Taliban were using opium trade profits to finance terrorist activities.

In this memoir, Leedham does an excellent job of describing step-by-step how he himself was prepared for the task of training up a team of 50 Pathan tribesman to serve as the backbone of an operation that would utilize helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft operated by the Department of State's Air Wing to improve security on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border. He also is very clear and fair in giving credit to the fighting spirit and teachable mindset of the Pathan warriors whom he trained, under the enlightened leadership of Pakistani General Sadaqat Ali Shah.

Without resorting to bitterness or undeserved bureaucracy bashing, Leedham is very open about the difficulties and frustrations of trying to cobble together a complex operation involving several nations and numerous departments and contracting entities. The creativity that Leedham and his team employed in making sure their Pathan warriors were properly equipped is Exhibit A in making his case that the doctrine of "Ask Forgiveness Not Permission" was the right way to go in the unforgiving world of the Hindu Kush.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsung heroes 30 Oct 2012
This is a cracking tale about a brave effort to police the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan after the Taleban had been sent packing. It is written by someone who really knows what he is talking about. The political, bureaucratic and logistical nightmares surrounding the whole operation illustrate how painfully neglected this theatre became after the wild goose chase that was the invasion of Iraq. All the guys in this book are genuine heroes and it tells their story well.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding personal story 29 Aug 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a terrific book and difficult to put own. Howard describes his journey from being a British Special Forces officer, to civilian and family life, and then to a one-year assignment for the US in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The main thrust of the book is about his last military assignment, how he blends in with the local community, obtains active support for his mission from the local Pakistani senior commander, trains specially selected local soldiers, wins their commitment, undertakes missions with them, convinces US Government Departments for additional equipment and financial aid and deftly manages the US Ambassador to Pakistan and her management team to achieve his objective. This is an untold story, that should receive greater acclaim, of how western military knowledge and expertise can be used to support and train local government soldiers to help them defend their country, thereby, avoiding the need to use western military personnel in war zones.

In addition to his activities in Pakistan, Howard also describes the challenges he faced managing his relationship with his family during the year of this operation, which many of us, who spend weeks at a time, if not months, away from our families can relate to.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new benchmark in true Military stories 22 Jan 2013
Ask Forgiveness Not Permission, sets the new benchmark in true military stories.
We've all read so much about covert Ops stuff, but this story demonstrates how one mans drive, singlemindedness, negotiating ability managed to carve success through the hurdles of beaurocracy, budgets and political barriers.

Many factors are important to the success of a tight military unit, but three of the most important are trust, respect and loyalty. These are qualities that are seldom found in the normal world. Howard demonstrates these qualities to perfection.

Howard Leedhams operation on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, although successful, eventually came at great personal cost.

Any aspiring leader or manager, regardless of thier line of business should read and learn from this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumph of common sense and guts 8 Nov 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a riveting account of how one remarkable man managed to overcome the deliberate apathy and negligence of the diplomats who were supposed to be supporting him, and the frustrating bureacracy of a Pakistani military that had its own internal challenges in terms of divided loyalties. It is also a lesson of how much could be achieved with so little in the way of resources, and highlights just how critical a role true leadership plays in these situations. Leedham managed to pull together a formidible fighting force with meagre resources, while having to resort to entrepreneurial and unorthodox methods to secure the necessary equipment and firepower for his soldiers. One can't help feeling that the cost of waging war could be significantly reduced, and the effectiveness of the resources applied could be significantly increased if more men like Leedham were to populate the senior ranks of the military.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars cracking read
This book is very in depth about the build up to a truly magnificent finale, also the troops involved are all heroes fighting for what is right.
Published 2 months ago by J. Maginnis
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking read
I was a fellow "junglie" with Howard flying Wessex 5 helicopters on 845 squadron back in 1983. One day he vanished from the squadron to do SF work ... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Harry Benson (author of SCRAM!)
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic story
The pride Howard Leedham had in his team is tangible and shone through the entire book, as did his ability to build quickly trust and respect with both the senior Pakistani... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Hellfire02
3.0 out of 5 stars Ask forgiveness not permission
Was expecting a bit more action, thought it would have been more like the book titled the devils guard. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Taffster
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read!
I was up till 3-30 this morning reading - could not put it down - Howard Leedham is not a professional writer, he is a soldier and that comes across with his down to earth... Read more
Published 9 months ago by J. D. Duckham
5.0 out of 5 stars What an amazing year
Howard's story is a fantastic read, well written, great descriptions and a very human reflection on this amazing year. Read more
Published 10 months ago by John
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
An excellent book written by a man who has been through the mill more than once. As an author myself I know how hard and cathartic in equal measure it is to write a book but I... Read more
Published 12 months ago by mark holroyd
5.0 out of 5 stars Compulsory Staff College Reading
I rate this account alongside 'A Bright Shining Lie' by Paul Sheehan. In his biographical account of John Paul Vann, Sheehan relates how a retired US Army half-colonel fought his... Read more
Published 16 months ago by David Livingstone
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
I would give this book 6 stars if that were possible. It is a truely great story of a man who working against all odds achieved the impossible. Read more
Published 16 months ago by C. Mills
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Game
Much has been written over many years about the Great Game. If it ever was a game, it is no longer so. Read more
Published 19 months ago by Mike Sixsmith
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