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Task Force Black: The Explosive True Story of the Secret Special Forces War in Iraq [Paperback]

Mark Urban
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Jun 2012

The book the MoD doesn't want you to read' Daily Mail

Soon after British and American forces invaded Iraq they faced an insurgency that was almost impossible to understand, let alone reverse.

Facing defeat, the Coalition waged a hidden war within a war. Major-General Stan McChrystal devised a campaign fusing special forces, aircraft, and the latest surveillance technology with the aim of taking down the enemy faster than it could regenerate. Guided by intelligence, a small British special forces team met the car bombers' fire with fire and accounted for thousands of insurgents.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Task Force Black: The Explosive True Story of the Secret Special Forces War in Iraq + Big Boys' Rules: The SAS and the Secret Struggle Against the IRA
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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; Reprint edition (5 Jun 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1250006961
  • ISBN-13: 978-1250006967
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 2.2 x 20.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 490,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


A ground-breaking, often chilling account . . . remarkable (Sunday Times)

The book the MoD doesn't want you to read (Daily Mail)

With unparalleled access to sources inside the SAS itself, Urban paints a picture of how our finest fighting men could be truly effective . . . An essential record of a remarkable military period (The Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

* The real story of Britain's war in Iraq has never been told - until now . . . --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book to educate, not entertain 9 Dec 2011
First of all, I have to say that all the negative reviews that Urban receives here on Amazon are quite clearly coming from people who think they are purchasing a novel in the vain of Andy McNab; they are seeking entertainment, not education. And make no mistake, it is education that Urban provides here, and yet again as he has done before, he combines a journalistic ability to expose what we knew little of before, and combine it with a broad picture analysis of the importance of these events to the wider story of Iraq.
I am ex-British Army, and currently writing my PhD on the use of intelligence, as well as researching on the use of special forces, and this book is one of the finest texts available to educate. This is because instead of glorifying gun battles and giving us nerdy details of the raids (Andy McNab has unfortunately corrupted the market in this regard) Urban instead details how the SAS operated throughout the Iraq campaign. We get all the detail you could want, tactical level details, through to operational intents, to campaign level strategic thinking. This is most important when hearing how the SAS were brought into the campaign design of General McChrystal. If you treat this book as an edification as to how contemporary counter-terrorist operations were conceived and operated with SOF execution, you will be nothing less than amazed. Incredible stuff, truly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dots all the i's crosses all the t's 24 Jun 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
For someone who had a very negative view of the iraq war because of all the media activity i wanted to know what was really going on behind the scenes, and in particular what our boys were up to and why our involvement lasted so long... it was clear the British army were almost fighting with one hand behind their backs and after reading Tim Collins' account of his time there- which turned into a farce where he was scapegoated by someone to save face -(thankfully exonerated and given an OBE), I was left with even more questions. Mark Urban's book gave a broader account which showed how our special forces worked flat out to put a lid on the insurgency and sectarian conflict which ripped Iraq apart after the fall of Hussain....

The book is very detailed both on a strategic level, shows the respect our cousins the US special forces have for the SAS at the highest levels, but also makes the very complex social, political and cultural issues facing US/UK forces, which were compounded by the problems in the UK at a political level understandable... there are eye witness accounts of Special forces raids by some of the operators involved, and the involvement of the main characters behind the planning, Graeme Lamb, Stanley McChrystal and General Petraeus are highlighted and explained....

The book was throughly checked out by the MOD so there are no banana skins to worry about. It has been informative, easy to read and at times gripping and has tranformed my view of the Iraqi conflict and our role there in a big way.
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67 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Book - Buy it 20 Feb 2010
This is a superb book recounting the story of the SAS (and Delta Force's) secret war against Al Queda and the Shi'ite militias, many of whom were backed by Iran and their revolutionary Guards. The author of this book is a well respected BBC defence correspondent with multiple contacts in the military and who spent time as an embed (as he recounts in the book) with American forces around Baghdad. As such the author is well qualified to narrate this tale and in doing so provides a book that is well researched and authentic.

Be warned though, the author is also a well respected military historian (Big Boys Rules, Fusiliers, Rifles, etc) and while the book includes many stories of derring do, its primary role is to tell the history of this particularly nasty theatre of the Iraq War. In this way it is not a "kill and tell" adventure story like Bravo Two Zero or Sniper One.

The one surprise in this book, I found, was the author's pretty damning revelations about the "defeatism" which permeated certain sections of the British Army officer class, particularly senior officers, and which had a detrimental effect on UK relations with the US allies and with the prosecution of the conflict in Southern Iraq ... eventually culminating in what can only be called a Defeat for the UK.

I'm not sure why a previous reviewer gave this only 1 star and had a pop at the author, maybe he read a different book or maybe he has his own agenda in slagging it off, but rest assured he is wrong. This is a SUPERB book and I would thoroughly recommend it to both readers of the more "populist" books like Bravo Two Zero (it has lots of stories of SAS raids) and for those looking for a more distanced analytical review of the Iraq War (it traces the entire Iraq war, though concentrates on the years 2004 to 2007).

Buy this book, you won't regret it.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
By Mr. Tristan Martin VINE VOICE
BBC journalist Mark Urban uses his contacts in the defence and intelligence establishment to give the reader of Task Force Black the inside track on what "Tier 1" Special Forces were doing in Iraq; whilst the front cover of the book specifically mentions the SAS, a good deal of the book concerns the United State's covert operators, Delta Force.

Urban's book certainly contains enough descriptions of door-kicking assaults, house raids, kidnaps and rescues to satisfy those who like to read about modern warfare but he spends an equal amount of time on military political manoeuvring and the concepts behind the strategies. So whilst we get first hand accounts of the rescue of British hostage Norman Kember and his Christian Peacemaker Team, or the killing of the leading fanatical Islamist Abu al-Zarqawi, we also get to learn about Major-General Stan McChrystal's concept of building networks, or of the Iraqi Awakening movement.

For those interested in the political dimension, Mark Urban uses much terminology of modern political discourse - the kind that seeks to make what is obvious, unclear and murder seem acceptable. When one hundred-plus American soldiers are killed in one month, the losses are referred to as "shockingly high"; when over fifty women and children are killed (not in one incident) this is referred to as merely "regrettable." As a consequence, Urban falls into the pro-war camp, promoting myths supportive of establishment objectives: al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) didn't exist until British and American forces invaded Iraq; the US-UK military presence attracted these fighters to Iraq, the consequence of which provided retroactive justification for why Western soldiers were waging the war in the first place.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Authorative and interesting
Comprehensive and well written account of SF activity in Iraq. This is concerned more with the political and strategic background to the war. Read more
Published 19 days ago by andy
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 1 month ago by scotty0707
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
boring to read
Published 1 month ago by Bill
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent exactly as described
Published 1 month ago by Paula Aplin
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great story nothing black and white about politics we only know what we are told this is well told.
Published 3 months ago by edward o donnell
3.0 out of 5 stars Good
Was an alright read, recalls a lot of different missions with details but is more like a lot of short stories rather than one main one. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Christian R.
5.0 out of 5 stars Behind the scenes. This is what really went on!
Great, behind the scenes story of true life military action. Read it if you can. Once started you can't put it down.
Published 5 months ago by DAVEYB
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book if you enjoy a Journalist approach to the narrative.
I think it's worth pointing out this has been written by a journalist so anyone looking for a first hand account a la McNab is going to probably be disappointed - that's not to say... Read more
Published 6 months ago by MrBigglesworth
1.0 out of 5 stars tedious reading
The book does not achieve what it says on the cover. It is not a book about the SAS, it is a book about the politics during the second Gulf war. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mrs. Beverly Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome
Really is an eye opener much better than the edited pieces the news wants you to see and hear :)
Published 11 months ago by heather
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