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A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan Paperback – 24 Apr 2009


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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Corgi (24 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552156086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552156080
  • Product Dimensions: 12.7 x 3 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 31,401 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"The lessons drawn by James Fergusson are deeply uncomfortable; but his account cannot be ignored by anyone seriously interested in the future of the British armed forces" (Douglas Hurd)

"a riveting, blistering, deeply reported narrative of the recent British military interventions in Afghanistan" (Peter Bergen, author of Holy War, Inc.)

"If you read anything on Afghanistan this year, then read this strong, intelligent book of crafted anger and insight" (Anthony Loyd)

"Fascinating... Succeeds brilliantly in detailing the emotional impact on soldiers killing for the first time and seeing comrades killed" (The Sunday Times)

"The only thoughtful and informed book to come out of the UK's venture into Helmand" (Frank Ledwidge Royal United Services Institute Journal)

Book Description

The real story of the British army in Afghanistan

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By T Westcott on 7 May 2009
Format: Paperback
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Charles Vasey TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 4 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback
James Fergusson has set out to cover a number of tangential matters than combine to point out the lack of a coherence and reality to NATO policy in Afghanistan, especially as this is applied by the British Army.

He tends to travel in the backwaters. Instead of the much rated 3 Para he visits the Gurkhas and Royal Fusiliers from the 3 Para Battlegroup shut away in some unsupported location getting shot at by the Taleban and unable to perform their mission of reconstruction.

He examines the practical difficulties of a small force of military professionals trying to bring peace to an area by bringing war. The difficulties of persuading the locals that the corrupt and brutal police and Afghan Army are to be supported are laid out; as is the difficulty of making the police and army anything but corrupt when they are underpaid and undertrained. It's a real muddle.

By comparing the units supporting two helicopter types (Chinooks and Apaches) Fergusson can make valuable points about the under-funding of the effort and (perhaps more important) the underinvestment in keeping skilled personnel. Just having the best kit is no answer when service
personnel are condemned to long tours and divorces. But looking at the armour kit used by the cavalry one can see that in some cases it is not only old but designed for different operational conditions (mostly the North German Plain).

Fergusson travels to meet and talk to the Taliban, he clearly respects them and feels they need to be part of the solution. This has been the view of a number of British officials but is apparently not acceptable in the eyes of the more manichean Americans.

Although at times Fergusson seems rather innocent it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that he is on to something. There is only one thing worse than fighting a war with allies; and that is fighting one without any.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By simon gurney HALL OF FAME on 15 Feb 2010
Format: Paperback
A Million Bullets is an excellently researched and written account of the British Armys deployment in Afganistan following the events of September 11.
The book centres on the events of operation Herrick 4 in southern Afganistan in 2006, but the highly detailed accounts of small unit actions during this operation also serves as an effective springboard for the authors analysis of earlier and later events as well as taking a much broader look at the reasons and politics behind the conflict.
This superb analysis picks up the stories of individuals involved in the fiercest fighting, and there are some quite incredible stories, and it is astonishing that the British Army did not suffer much higher numbers of causualties at this time.
The Author puts the new Afghan war in perspective against those of the past as well as the counter insurgency tactics borrowed from the Malayan war.
A book full of respect for the military on the ground and the air doing their utmost to perform their role professionally, but asking some serious questions of those in the military and government running the war.
An excellent, well balanced and highly readable modern military history.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Big Craig on 13 Jan 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book on recommendation from a friend of mine (we are both ex forces). All I can say is if you want an insight to the problems being faced in Afghanistan (Political, Military and Cultural), then this book is an absolute must read.

It gives you a feel for the problems we have and are facing in Afghanistan. Most of these problems are of our own making, through poor understanding of the cultural and tribal systems it has to be said, and are confirmed by this book, in conjunction with what I have been told by serving friends.

I found the battle descriptions 100% authentic, you find yourself wanting to take cover, and the expletives flow. The interviews are informal and you get a real sense of guys, 'telling it as it is'.

This book should be compulsory reading for politicians and senior commanders.

Whether you have a forces background or not I am sure the majority of people will enjoy reading this book for so many reasons, also money from the book goes to the charity 'Combat Stress'. So it's worth the purchase price just for that.

This book also ends up making you feel that one day Afghanistan will be a changed and much better place if we can learn the lessons and be flexible enough to make rapid changes to both politcal and military strategy.
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