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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable and eye-opening account of British in Afghanistan
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...
Published on 7 May 2009 by T Westcott

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading
This is not the greatest book I've ever read by any means but worth reading all the same. The author takes you right to the front line with the British troops serving in Afghanistan and the savage and sustained fighting they were drawn into. It makes an absolute mockery of the claims by Western Governments that the war in Afghanistan was won and that the Taliban were...
Published 13 months ago by Nico


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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable and eye-opening account of British in Afghanistan, 7 May 2009
By 
T Westcott (London) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (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. The idea was to facilitate the reconstruction of a country racked by years of war - but, just as in Iraq, the west seems to have made the security situation even worse, not better.

Clearly the soldiers are doing an incredible job despite muddled strategy, often unsuitable equipment (vehicles with no air conditioning, lightly-armoured Land Rovers), and not enough soldiers (the war they are fighting requires boots on the ground - without enough ground troops the Coalition is over dependent on air power which makes the risk of civilian casualties higher).

This is certainly not a defeatist book - the Taliban can hardly be said to have the upper hand - but it sounds alarm bells about where the operation is going. Even the head of the army says that if the British Army is forced to continue the same tempo of operations for many years to come, there soon won't be an army. Fergusson notes that numbers are diminishing and recruitment is slow.

Serious though these issues are, this is much more that a book about the military - if you have any interest in modern politics, you should read it. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Muddling through, 4 Jan 2010
By 
Charles Vasey (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (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
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential reading, 2 Jun 2010
By 
Susan Kelly "sujen1" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (Paperback)
If you're interested in any way in the current war in Afghanistan, this is a must-read for you. Easily understood and impartial, it helps understanding of this increasingly difficult struggle and engenders enormous admiration of all our troops out there, and of the difficulties of re-integration faced by those who have returned.
The book was written about events out there in 2006. Sadly the war has moved on and become even more dangerous and difficult, but it still gives a penetrating insight in to what our troops are dealing with.
Highly recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The New Not So Great Game, 15 Feb 2010
By 
simon gurney (london United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (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
5.0 out of 5 stars An absolute 'MUST READ'!, 13 Jan 2010
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This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (Paperback)
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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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars plenty of room for a sequel, 9 Jun 2009
By 
F. Smiddy - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (Paperback)
Unusual review of the war in Afghanistan at the stage of Op Herrick 4: unusual in that this is no blood-and-guts battlefield memoir. Its core is based on numerous interviews with all ranks of the regiments that served there. Typically after they have been able to de-compress back in the UK. This helicopter-like view enables him to place the battles in the skein of the UK Government's misguided strategy of the time, and show how under-resourced was its execution. In the final chapters the tone becomes a lot more personal and immediate. Fergusson manages, with a lot of patience and a fair amount of danger, to meet with several Taliban warlords. Disarmed by their hospitality, he is chilled by their patience, motivation and conviction. Sadly there will be plenty of scope for the sequel: Ten Million Bullets.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth reading, 30 May 2013
By 
Nico (Australia) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (Paperback)
This is not the greatest book I've ever read by any means but worth reading all the same. The author takes you right to the front line with the British troops serving in Afghanistan and the savage and sustained fighting they were drawn into. It makes an absolute mockery of the claims by Western Governments that the war in Afghanistan was won and that the Taliban were nothing but a defeated force on the run. A million bullets may have been fired when none were supposedly needed, but it is clear that for all the bullets expended and lives lost, precious little has been achieved in the West's military adventure in Afghanistan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A million bullets -a thousand praises, 4 Sep 2010
By 
I. M. Hall "Ian from Berkshire" (Berkshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (Paperback)
A thoughful and well crafted book on the problems faced in Afghansitan, the final chapter makes for very thoughtful reading. A damning indictment of the problems faced when a peace-time army is thrown into a situation that it is not prepared for. Should be made mandatory reading for the politicians who thought media studies was more important than the lives of our troops.

I sent this book to a well-informed American friend, he knew we were in Iraq but did not know we were in Afghansitan.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An interesting perspective, 20 Jun 2010
By 
P. MACDONALD - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book - it has a very earthy and objective angle to it. While reporting enough of the key facts and factors to paint the macro and local backdrops to the narrative, the author restrained himself from being too judgmental or conclusive about either the commanders of the mission or the soldiers.
Nevertheless, it left me very concerned about the ability of the army to create a clear command and control environment within which to operate; a concern about their ability to balance speed of mission with restraint and patience in pursuit of bigger and longer term imperatives; and the fairness of the awards/ decorations granted to soldiers where I felt that the RRF and the Ghurkas, amongst others were short changed in a command structure where at the top of 16 Air Assault Brigade, their cap badges were not represented. In the aftermath, I question whether there was an unfairly weighted award of medals.
I'd love to read the perspective of the participants of the next phase of the war, what they felt they inherited and how they went on with subsequent operations.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book - the best of its genre, 17 Nov 2009
By 
ASTJOHN Brown "StJohn" (East Grinstead, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan (Paperback)
A lot of books have come out describing the experiences of the troops in Afghanistan, particularly since 2006. This book also tells what happens in that summer, and is rather more even handed than the Para experiences. For example, the Gurkhas had a similarly tough time, but were totally ignored when it came to medals being awarded. Whilst incredibly supportive of the troops and what they had to put up with, Fergusson gently points out all the shortcomings of what they were asked to do, and they were equipped. This is emphasised by the utterances from the out of touch senior officers in either Bastion or Kabul, who clearly didn't have a clue what the troops in the FOBs were having to go through. His two chapters on the different helicopters are the best I have read, drawing attention to the fantastic work the ground crews - as well as the air crews -do in maintaining and flying them. All of the equipment shortage issues are addressed, showing what the impact is on the troops in the front line, which tragically have still not been solved.

The other book - less analytical, more visceral - is Patrick Hennessey's The Young Officers' Reading Club which gives the best perspective from a front line soldier. These two together would be the two books I'd recommend anyone reads to understand how awful things are in Afghanistan - and they aren't improving.

One reads that Fergusson has the ear of David Cameron. If so, that is a real positive because he talks more sense about Afghanistan than anyone either in the Government or the Opposition.
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A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan
A Million Bullets: The real story of the British Army in Afghanistan by James Fergusson (Paperback - 24 April 2009)
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