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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Work that should be read by any interested citizen and every politician in the country.
Frank Ledwidge's new book is stunning. There's a fluency and confidence to his writing that was present only in places in Losing Small Wars. The writing is crisper, his arguments tighter and conclusions more assertive.

In this book, be begins by summarising and updating the arguments he made in Losing Small Wars. This was a helpful refresher. However, if you...
Published 17 months ago by Jonathan Brown

versus
2.0 out of 5 stars A reasonable book, but there are better
Whilst there is some good research in the book, Ledwidge sets rather too much store by apparent off-hand and unattributable comments from unidentified (and not particularly senior) players - the equivalent of 'a bloke down the pub said'. His written tone tends towards the sneering which is unfortunate, given the subject matter and, given his own role in Afghanistan and...
Published 5 months ago by Adrian Lee


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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brilliant Work that should be read by any interested citizen and every politician in the country., 20 Jun 2013
By 
Jonathan Brown "J. S" (Surrey, England) - See all my reviews
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Frank Ledwidge's new book is stunning. There's a fluency and confidence to his writing that was present only in places in Losing Small Wars. The writing is crisper, his arguments tighter and conclusions more assertive.

In this book, be begins by summarising and updating the arguments he made in Losing Small Wars. This was a helpful refresher. However, if you haven't read his earlier book, this may be insufficient. It would have been easy for the author to adopt an indignant or emotional tone given the conclusive evidence of the damage and appalling lack of leadership at the higher levels of the British military. However, you get none of it from Ledwidge - just a clinical argument that calmly builds into a storm as you work through the book. He takes a deeply conservative approach to calculating the cost and the damage of the conflict. The figures are still staggering and the conservatism makes his assessment even more powerful-it was a colossal mistake and we will be suffering the consequences for decades.

Ledwidge shows his ex-military pedigree with a staunch refusal to play to the crowds. He challenges the sentimental approach to how many treat our war dead. Instead he asserts that everyone who went to war was a volunteer and, as one soldier says, "I took my chances, but they didn't work out" Instead he recommends "a realistic and firm realisation: "We sent them, now we must take care of the consequences." As Ledwidge shows, we (GB) are not doing this at any level.

Some of his conclusions and descriptions are exquisite-Camp Bastion is about "the same size as the Berkshire town of Reading"
"The intervention in Afghanistan has seen the country go from the 42nd most corrupt country in the world to "a very serious contender for the title of "most corrupt country in the world".
"There are far more dangerous concentrations of Al Qaeda in the UK than in Afghanistan."
"Military historians might come to regard the Afghan campaign [by the Taliban] as the most effective "asymmetric" campaign in the history of warfare."
"The emaciated state of the navy remains a national disgrace and a serious danger."
And my nomination for the Understatement of the year award - "...the British have been somewhat lacking in successful generals in recent years."

He uses the work of other authors judiciously and skilfully. "...the MoD is frequently a stranger to anything close to the truth or accuracy... They are spending far too much time cooking the books"
"We killed a lot of people, I think. Many of them might have been the wrong people."
"We caused so many areas to be destabilised that had not been destabilised before."
"The chief reason why terrorists are motivated to kill themselves lies in the one word "occupation."
And one quote that for me sums up the whole sorry war from a British officer: "When I got home I sat down and said to myself "What the F*** was that all about?"
As bleak as the book's conclusions are, Ledwidge manages to maintain a thoughtful and future focused tone. He makes a series of recommendations that as citizens we should be haranguing our politicians over.
This book should be read by any interested citizen and every politician and civil servant within the blast radius of the most expensive military "defeat" in 100 years. As Ledwidge brilliantly argues, the consequences of our mistakes will last for decades and we must deal with them to avoid further disasters. An exceptional contribution.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "This book is a masterpiece in miniature... All of us responsible for [this]...exercise in military futility should read [it]", 16 Jun 2013
By 
R. McLeod (UK) - See all my reviews
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The following review, published on 16th June 2013, was written by Sherard Cowper Cowles, previously the UK's Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The original review can be found at [...]

"** Investment in Blood by Frank Ledwidge: A devastating indictment of the utter, unanswerable folly of Afghanistan **

Frank Ledwidge, once a "justice adviser" in Britain's para-colonial administration in Helmand, has produced a devastating indictment of Britain's military intervention in southern Afghanistan. If those of us complicit in the error were ever brought to justice, he says, this would be the case for our prosecution.

Investment in Blood: the True Cost of Britain's Afghan War
Frank Ledwidge
Yale University Press, 304pp, £18.99

Frank Ledwidge was a "justice adviser" in Britain's para-colonial administration in Helmand. As well as spending 15 years as a naval reserve officer, he once practised as a barrister - and it shows. In a closely argued book, he produces a devastating indictment of the utter, unanswerable folly of Britain's military intervention in southern Afghanistan. If those of us complicit in the error were ever brought to justice, this would be the case for our prosecution.

Ledwidge begins by putting the campaign in Helmand in context, before describing British casualties in terms of those killed and those whose bodies or minds have been broken in the fighting. More of our soldiers have died in Afghanistan than in any other counter-insurgency campaign overseas since the Boer war. Ledwidge exhibits sympathy for our casualties, while reminding us that they were all volunteers, doing a job most loved.

The same cannot be said of the unnumbered Afghan civilians caught up in the conflict. As Ledwidge points out, Britain makes no serious effort to count, let alone identify, the thousands of Pashtun people killed, maimed or displaced by the fighting.

The second part of the book looks at what the campaign will continue to cost the British taxpayer, even after the last C-17 lifts off from Camp Bastion. In 2010, the Treasury representative on the Whitehall committee overseeing the war said that it was costing "getting on for £6bn a year". Looking at the military costs (some £31.1bn), the future care of veterans (£3.8bn) and the money Britain is spending on civilian development in Afghanistan (a relatively puny £2.1bn), Ledwidge calculates a campaign cost by 2020 of some £40bn - enough to run 1,000 primary schools for 40 years or to recruit 1,000 nurses and pay for their entire careers. By contrast, he reckons that the Taliban's war in Helmand has cost it £16m - truly asymmetric warfare.

These are merely the softening-up salvos before Ledwidge delivers his most crushing political ordnance by asking what this vast expenditure of British blood and treasure will have achieved. At his forensic best, he tears through the tissue of wishful thinking, wilful deception and worse that politicians, generals, diplomats and civil servants have used to justify the war to a sceptical but surprisingly complaisant British public. Ledwidge argues that - as at least one former head of MI5 has said and as the horrific attack in Woolwich suggested - we are, if anything, less secure as a result of making war without good cause on Muslims in distant Asian countries. Like many Afghans, he wonders how successful we will be in leaving behind a better country than the one we entered in 2001. He asks if Britain has been right - unlike France, Canada or the Netherlands - to go along so meekly with a US military-heavy "strategy" that few serious policymakers in Whitehall or in Washington privately believed could work. And he points out that the British army's success in using the Afghan war to secure scarce resources has been the Royal Navy's - and the national interest's - loss.

This book is a masterpiece in miniature. Had the canvas been larger, I would have liked to have read more about the shaky pillars on which our plan for securing Afghanistan after we leave is supposed to rest: the Afghan army, police and their auxiliaries. I would have saluted their courage, while questioning the capacity and commitment of forces supposed, improbably, to continue countering an insurgency that has succeeded so far this year in initiating 47 per cent more attacks than last year. And I would have said more about how our armed forces have been enthusiastic dupes in the whole exercise: not surprisingly, professional soldiers have preferred a small war to serious boredom on Salisbury Plain.

All of us responsible for the west's eye wateringly expensive exercise in military futility should read this book before we dare again to mouth - or tweet - the sentiment behind what Wilfred Owen called "the old lie": Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori. Ledwidge offers no help for heroes; no one would want to inflict this book on the grieving widows or fatherless children of those sent to Helmand to die without good reason.

Nearly 250 years ago, Edmund Burke warned the Commons against repressing the American insurgency by force: "The use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed which is perpetually to be conquered . . . An armament is not a victory." His words, like Ledwidge's book, remind us how hard man finds it to resist the siren song of military adventurism; and how high the bill can be for such colossal strategic error.

Sherard Cowper-Coles served as Britain's Afghan envoy between 2007 and 2010"
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Starting point for debate, 30 Aug 2013
Mr Ledwidge has done a good job; a better job, in fact, than he did in his first book (which was pretty good).

The current bluster about Syria made me think about the not-yet-finished business in Afghanistan and so I bought IIB. I have read it cover to cover in a very short space of time: what a read. Each page envelopes you further in the folly of that particular adventure and makes you wonder about Lybia, Syria etc. It is just too hard to fight these wars in this age, and IIB illustrates in minute, but fascinating detail why we cannot. It is not because the Taliban are 'evil', or we don't have enough helicopters (true as that might be), but because these bloody wars are too complicated for us to understand.

When the debate and the inquiry (surely there must be one) start in the UK, this book will form an important baseline, one from which people argue the facts about the war in Helmand.

Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The butcher's bill in full..., 10 Jun 2014
By 
Christian Hill (Nottinghamshire) - See all my reviews
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Investment in Blood is an exhaustive account of the cost to the British military - and by extension, the British taxpayer - of the campaign in Afghanistan. Given the high price paid in blood by our own troops and the Afghan people - all of it made possible by astonishing levels of financial profligacy - it is by no means a comfortable read, but it does provide a fascinating insight into the folly of a 'war among the people' in the most unforgiving conditions.

The first part of the book focuses on the human cost of the campaign, Ledwidge addressing not only the flesh-and-blood impact on the military, but also the suffering felt by Afghan civilians. As well as breaking down the official data on fatalities and hospital admissions, he sheds light on some of the less obvious aspects of traumatic injury, such as the prevalence of IED casualties who survive the blast but are left with brain damage. On the Afghan side, we learn more about the scale of civilian casualties, and also the plight of those who survive but have been forced out of their homes by the war.

In Part Two the focus shifts onto the campaign's financial cost. In one of the best sections of the book, Ledwidge breaks down the estimated cost to the taxpayer of a typical firefight between a British patrol and a group of Taliban. Such 'contacts' would be happening several times a day in Helmand during the height of the fighting season - often with no gains to show for it - and yet the costs involved are staggering. Ledwidge then asks the MoD to put a figure on the total spend for the campaign - distressingly, no one in Whitehall can give him an answer.

In the third and final part of the book, Ledwidge looks at what the campaign has actually achieved, both in terms of the benefits it has brought to Afghanistan, and the impact it has had on our own security. This is perhaps the most sobering part of the book, as Britain's uncritical following of US-led policy is shown to have had disastrous consequences. Reading Ledwidge's conclusions, one is left wondering how anybody in government ever thought the campaign could possibly succeed.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Investment in Blood, 8 Sep 2013
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A book that had to be written so that the British people could know the true cost of the Afghan war. Not only the human cost but the costs that will have to be paid for years to come.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Critical review of the Afgan War, 20 Aug 2013
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A critical assessment of the Afgan war including lives lost, ongoing care for injured troops and the financial costs. Respectful of the soldiers but scathing of the Generals, MOD and Government.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Investment in Blood, 19 Nov 2013
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Anybody who has read the author's earlier Afghan war book `Losing Small Wars' will be in awe of his advocacy in appealing to the national conscience, his capacity for deep and meaningful research, and his articulacy. The follow up does not disappoint, and will give many a politician and military leader pause for thought. The lessons that come out of this latest flirtation with the scene of so many of our previous military disasters will be glaringly obvious to all. Sadly the hubris, self delusion and capacity for deception that seems to afflict so many who would seek to influence the fortunes of the electorate in a capitalist society today will continue to override rational thought and a genuine desire to do well by their fellow men, and will persist in the endeavour to subvert the humanitarian instincts of most right minded individuals. Moreover, their readiness to exploit the exuberance, loyalty and adventurous inclinations of an armed force whose professionalism remains undimmed, but whose self confidence has been severely shaken by the nonsensical nature of the task that they were set, will, probably, remain undiluted. Ledwidge's sympathies lie very firmly and correctly with the victims of, so called, `collateral damage'. If ever there was a collective demonstration of the indiscriminate nature of a `surgical' strike, Helmand was its witness, and it makes ever stronger the case for `boots on the ground'! Unfortunately the hostility of potential battlegrounds will seldom make for easy intervention, and, the chances are that logic, reason and a dab of humility will continue to elude those who purport to be acting in the national interest!

Amphibian
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A penetrating analysis of the cost of the British military in Afghanistan, 28 Oct 2013
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A 'must read' for anyone who is asking themselves "What are the British doing in Afghanistan?" and "What is the human and financial cost to Afghanistan and Britain" of this ill-gotten venture.
Frank Ledwidge ably and plausibly tackles these questions - and no starry-eyed peace activist he - he is described as a former Navy reservist intelligence officer and quotes military contacts on this theme.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The failure of a disastrous conflict, 8 July 2014
By 
Reverend D. C. Macdonald (Derby, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book provides a devastating analysis of the real cost of the war in Afghanistan and documents precisely why it has achieved very little. The author is unsparing in his use of carefully researched statistics, of the numbers of lives on all sides that have been lost, but also the sheer squandering of money on weapons etc. One may only hope that the next time the government wants to fight a war it will way up the potential costs and consequences using this powerful book as a guide.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Splendid survey of the outcomes of Britain's war in Afghanistan, 1 Aug 2013
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Frank Ledwidge is a former naval reserve military intelligence officer who served on the front line in the Balkan wars and Iraq, and was a justice advisor for the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan's Helmand province. He also wrote the outstanding Losing small wars: British military failure in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This war has cost Britain more lives (444 as of 9 July 2013) and more money than any post-1945 war except Korea, more lives than any counter-insurgency war since the Boer War. 2,600 soldiers have been wounded and more than 5,000 psychologically injured. The cost of Britain's war casualties is at least £4 billion, but the state lets charities bear the costs of caring for veterans.

Prime Minister Blair decided in 2005 that British forces should take responsibility for Helmand, which is the size of Bosnia. Helmand was largely peaceful before British forces arrived in 2006. Since then, at least 3,000 civilians have been killed, at least 542 by British or NATO forces. Thousands have been wounded and left disabled, and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes.

The army keeps no records of civilian casualties. Many civilian deaths go unreported, like the 25, including nine women and three babies, killed by an air strike in June 2007, only revealed by journalist Ben Anderson, and the eight killed by an air strike in July 2010, only revealed by Wikileaks. Compare this with the attention given to British soldier deaths. Ledwidge concludes that as far as the British army is concerned, "an Afghan life (or indeed many Afghan lives) is not worth one British life. The horrendous irony of this is that... one of the supposed tenets of the so-called `counterinsurgency' tactic is `protection of the people'."

Since 2006, no government has told us how much the war costs. The British ambassador there estimated in 2010 that it cost Britain £6 billion a year. Ledwidge estimates the total so far as £31.1 billion. The war has cost the `international community' (that is, the G7) $900 billion.

The war's aims were, supposedly, to establish security in Afghanistan, to enable development, and to make us safe here in Britain. But security is worse, development is virtually non-existent, and 7/7 still happened.

We had spent £950 million on development projects by early 2013, and another £1 billion is to be spent by 2015. Yet Afghanistan is 181st of 182 countries in human development and it still produces 85 per cent of the world's heroin.

No Afghan has ever been involved in any terror attack in Europe or the USA. Anatol Lieven, an expert on Pakistan, pointed out, "What we can surely say is that UK policy has been an absolute disaster in the perception of the Muslim population and has produced a significantly increased terrorist threat." So, as he observed, "The real front line against terrorism in the UK is in the UK." Ledwidge comments, "That is surely incontrovertible in the light of the July 2005 bombings in London and subsequent attempted attacks, many of them mounted by UK citizens of Pakistani origin."

Like the USA in Vietnam, British forces won the battles and lost the war. By 2010, the US embassy had concluded that Britain's forces were `not up to the task' of securing Helmand. Canada, the Netherlands and France have already, wisely, withdrawn their forces.

Some in Britain's political and military leadership still cannot admit that they got it wrong; they think that `cracking on', one more push, and we'll win. But this just reinforces failure.

Ledwidge claims that this `is the last imperial war'. We very much hope so, but Foreign Secretary Hague's efforts to make war on Syria suggest that it will not be. It is more likely that so long as we allow capitalism to survive, it will wage imperialist wars.

The author cites General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the British army at the time, who said in 2009: "there is recognition that our national and military reputation and credibility, unfairly or not, have been called into question at several levels in the eyes of our most important ally as a result of some aspects of the Iraq campaign. Taking steps to restore this credibility will be pivotal - and Afghanistan provides an opportunity."

Ledwidge sums up, "The so-called `special relationship' has led Britain into the invasion of two Islamic countries. Her confused and inconsistent strategy (or the lack of any strategy) in the ensuing wars and her over-enthusiastic and totally uncritical following of US policy have been intensely damaging to British (and indeed Afghan) interests. The policies pursued have been entirely counterproductive and literally self-defeating." He concludes that we need to make our defence forces and strategy serve our national interests, not the USA's national interests.
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Investment in Blood
Investment in Blood by Frank Ledwidge (Paperback - 1 July 2014)
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