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Operation Snakebite: The Explosive True Story of an Afghan Desert Siege [Hardcover]

Stephen Grey
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 April 2009

In December 2007, Stephen Grey, a Sunday Times reporter, was under fire in Afghanistan as British and US forces struggled to liberate the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala. Taking shelter behind an American armoured Humvee, Grey turned his head to witness scenes of carnage. A car and a truck were riddled with gunfire. Their occupants, including several children, had died. Taliban positions were pounded by bullets and bombs dropped on their compounds. A day later, as the operation continued, a mine exploded just yards from Grey, killing a British soldier.

Who, he wondered in the days that followed, was responsible for the bloodshed? And what purpose did it serve? A compelling story of one military venture that lasted several days, Operation Snakebite draws on Grey's exclusive interviews with everyone from private soldiers to NATO commanders. The result is a thrilling and at times horrifying story of a war which has gone largely unnoticed back home.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; Second Printing edition (2 April 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670917869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670917860
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.2 x 3.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 427,875 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Magnificent... the fear, the courage, the uncertainty and the sheer mayhem of two days intensive fighting is frequently more vivid than any film (Misha Glenny Misha Glenny, Mail on Sunday 20090510)

Superb, fast-paced. Captures the grit and the gore, the exhaustion and emotion, the killing and the dying (Raymond Bonner Raymond Bonner, The Guardian 20090425)

This is an uncommonly vivid portrait of battle, matched by sharp investigation of purposes, intrigues and cock-ups... Grey's descriptions of firefights are exemplary (Max Hastings Max Hastings, Sunday Times 20090405)

A fascinating insight... a catalogue of doubt, criticism and anger (David Crouch David Crouch, Financial Times 20090518)

A gripping and moving account (Dr Rodney Atwood Dr Rodney Atwood, Soldier Magazine 20090801)

An exceptional piece of reportage (Michael Smith Michael Smith, New Statesman 20090518)


'An uncommonly vivid portrait of battle, matched by sharp investigation of purposes, intrigues and cock-ups.'

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
78 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compelling and thought provoking account. 29 Mar 2009
By Pedros
Fortunate enough to get a copy of this book a couple of days ago in Hatchards. Unable to put down until finished. If you like war accounts then this is a trully gripping account of another fierce, brutal firefight with lives torn apart. Bloody and nasty battle worn soldiers getting down to a job that had to be done. Operation Snakebite is everything a reader wants from a war book. Sadly though this is not fictional and like so many accounts of a war against the Taliban the outcome is always so unpredictable. Many soldiers come home without colleagues and some without limbs. If you enjoy the book as much as I have please ensure you make a donation to help for heroes as these accounts could not be written without our boys and the enormous courage they have.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Operation Snakebite 30 April 2009
Stephen Grey's book gives an excellent, sympathetic impression of what it is like to be at the 'sharp end' of operations in Afghanistan - and a severely critical view of Kharzai's government ! It's a rattling good read - and has excellent maps and graphics to explain the complications of modern warfare. If you want to find out what it's like to be a soldier in Afghanistan, with all its frustrations, then this is the book for you.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stonking good read 11 April 2009
For those who enjoy the "war book" genre, this is a stonking good read. It is finely crafted, with a well-structured narrative and a good mixture of characterisation, description and fact to keep the reader turning the pages to the very end. It also provides an account of - as the blurb puts it - "an at times horrifying story of a war which has gone largely unnoticed back home."

The reason it has gone "largely unnoticed", of course, is that the MoD not only avoided telling anyone about it, but put a security block on the official publication of details, which left the MoD website devoid of information, with journalists contacting the Taleban on their mobile telephones to get details of the operation.

Courtesy of Grey, we now know that there were several reasons for the MoD's reticence, one being the co-incidental visit of Gordon Brown to Camp Bastion. With the largest operation then to have been mounted in Helmand Province and with the outcome far from certain, officials were concerned that news of the operation might detract from the prime minister's visit, especially if there were casualties.

But the major reason, Grey tells us, was that both the British and the Americans had decided that this was to be an I/O - an "information operation" - otherwise known as a propaganda exercise. The intention was to convey to the outside world that this was an operation led by the Afghanis, assisted by coalition forces.

As a result, we had the bizarre scene of the "capture" of the town centre being photographed by the MoD's Defence Combat Camera Team, showing jubilant Afghani troops raising their national flag.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just how it is! 15 July 2009
A truly excellent narative which tells a soldiers story of just how this latest war is being fought. As a veteran of desert warefare I can assure readers that Stephen Grey has captured the very essence of excitement, fear, danger, elation, frustration and sadness in a well paced and easily read narrative. This book is a real 'page turner' that covers the soldiers, politicians and civillian actions that they, in their own sphere, hope will make a difference.
I would give this book the highest accolade and recommendation in that soldier and civillian alike will find it easy to follow and so realistic as to make you wince, smile and cry.
One more thing - is Stephen Grey going back to do a follow up? I for one certainly hope so.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shocking Truth 28 April 2009
I was encouraged by a friend to buy Operation Snakebite by Stephen Grey.
I have been very shocked reading the account that it relates of the differing aims and objectives of our partners in the Afgan war, and of the Government there. Our appalling military shortages, and the duplicity of the politicians.
The book is a facinating and readable insight into the life of our soldiers out there.
No-one should miss out on this book.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As true as they get... 18 April 2009
If you want to gain a better understanding of modern warfare, the impact of military/political strategic planning or just want to get an insight into the lives of soldiers in combat, then read this book; it covers all this and more. I consider that this is one of the most accurate, complete and compelling accounts of conflict ever written. I know, as I was there.

I was somewhat sceptical that any book would be able to capture the fullest extent of the UK campaign OR the battle for Musa Qaleh, or indeed that it would be in any way true, but Stephen Grey has managed all of this in superb fashion.

This book is a moving and well thought out narrative, drawing upon the experiences of scores of soldiers and officers 'on the ground'. Altogether a well balanced and thought provoking read.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oeration Snakebite 7 Jun 2009
I wanted to know a bit more about the war in Afghanistan, this was easy reading covering what was going on at the Sharp end as well as the politics in Kabul.Also broached the difficulties of attacking the enemy without killing civilians.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Realism !
Excellent read, would recommend to anybody who is intereted in facual matters, and in the moment assessment and general outcome !
Published 3 days ago by Ds
5.0 out of 5 stars The Taking of Musa Qala
Excellent book leading to the taking of Musa Qala from the Taliban, said to be their highly prized headquarters in Helmand. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Outstanding Courage and Bravery
3.0 out of 5 stars afghan ops
Too much name dropping and not enough action. Very well written but one would expect that of a journalist. Reasonable.
Published 4 months ago by G. Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
great book. the author tells the true events of the battle for Musa Kala and the soldiers war on the ground under constant fire from the enemy.
Published 6 months ago by peter bullock
5.0 out of 5 stars Still reading!
I am still reading this but felt I should comment. Being ex army I want to know what our lads are getting up to and have read a number of books about the conflict in Afghanistan. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Ryno57
4.0 out of 5 stars Personal and the bigger picture
You can always tell immediately that a book has been written by a journalist, rather than a serving or ex soldier. The proof readers must have it easy. Read more
Published 12 months ago by powderfinger
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opener
I read this book before passing on to a relative as a present - it presents an informative and honest insight into life for British service men and women in Afghanistan.
Published 14 months ago by John O'Sullivan
5.0 out of 5 stars possibly the best book on Afghanistan so far
This book is excellently constructed, from the descriptions of the depraved and egregious Hamid Karzai and his government, to the accounts of the front line fighting and the... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mark Barker
4.0 out of 5 stars good book
i bought this book for my brother ,i didnt read it myself but he told ,it was a book he,d recommend anyone ,its not jusr for male readers but women can read it too
Published on 4 July 2012 by nori
5.0 out of 5 stars Stephen Greys Operation Snake Bite
I enjoyed this book, I have read many other accounts of the conflict in Afghanistan, but this was a little more in depth. Read more
Published on 31 Mar 2011 by Jalmo
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