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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A window into a clandestine world
This is a must buy book as it tells a unique human story set in a dramatic super human situation.

The key to this book is that you get the whole story not just the no guts no glory usual tale, but the political pressures and complexities and the divided loyalties of a soldier with a family.
By having this information you can place yourself more...
Published 20 months ago by Mr. D. J. Grant

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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ask forgiveness not permission
Was expecting a bit more action, thought it would have been more like the book titled the devils guard. Seemed to have spent 85% writing about funding and training and 15% on missions.
Published 7 months ago by Taffster


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A window into a clandestine world, 31 Oct 2012
By 
This review is from: Ask Forgiveness Not Permission (Paperback)
This is a must buy book as it tells a unique human story set in a dramatic super human situation.

The key to this book is that you get the whole story not just the no guts no glory usual tale, but the political pressures and complexities and the divided loyalties of a soldier with a family.
By having this information you can place yourself more realistically in his shoes and you are willing him to get through it all and get back.

Seldom are we allowed to see what goes on in the secret world of the special forces but even less frequently are we allowed to see the soldiers as human beings and their struggle with the family/forces split.

I genuinely can't recommend the book too highly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Deeply Insightful Memoir from the Badlands ofPakistan, 10 Dec 2012
By 
Alan L. Chase "Al Chase" (Boston, MA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ask Forgiveness Not Permission (Paperback)
I love it when individuals whom I know and respect write books that make a difference. "Ask Forgiveness Not Permission" is just such a book. Howard Leedham, a much-decorated British Commando - helicopter pilot, clearance diver, special ops officer - was tapped by the U.S. State Department to run a special program in Pakistan. There was a pressing need to try to seal the porous border with Afghanistan being utilized by narco-terrorists. Al-Qaeda and Taliban were using opium trade profits to finance terrorist activities.

In this memoir, Leedham does an excellent job of describing step-by-step how he himself was prepared for the task of training up a team of 50 Pathan tribesman to serve as the backbone of an operation that would utilize helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft operated by the Department of State's Air Wing to improve security on the Pakistan side of the Afghan border. He also is very clear and fair in giving credit to the fighting spirit and teachable mindset of the Pathan warriors whom he trained, under the enlightened leadership of Pakistani General Sadaqat Ali Shah.

Without resorting to bitterness or undeserved bureaucracy bashing, Leedham is very open about the difficulties and frustrations of trying to cobble together a complex operation involving several nations and numerous departments and contracting entities. The creativity that Leedham and his team employed in making sure their Pathan warriors were properly equipped is Exhibit A in making his case that the doctrine of "Ask Forgiveness Not Permission" was the right way to go in the unforgiving world of the Hindu Kush. It is also not surprising, while ironic, that the most difficult hurdles that Leedham and his team had to clear in accomplishing their mission came from fighting internal and internecine battles rather than battling external enemies on the borderlands of Baluchistan and between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Much of the reading that I have done about the complications of U.S. and British troops working alongside Iraqi or Afghan warriors is the strikingly different attitude towards the gap that exists between officers and their enlisted troops. In the West, the officer is charged with the responsibility to care for his troops, to equip and train them to accomplish their mission and to do everything possibility to bring them back home safely. The officer does not eat until his troops have eaten and leads from the front whenever appropriate. In Leedham's words to his Pathan troops: "I will not ask you to do anything that I would not do myself." In the cultures of Southwest Asia, the officer corps are set apart, living very different lives than those of their troops, often taking the best food and equipment for themselves, even taking a cut of their soldier's pay. One of the remarkable accomplishments of the year that Leedham spent in training and leading these 50 special Pathan troops was that fact that he was able to inculcate into the minds and spirits of the Pakistani officers more of a Western approach to caring for their soldiers. This is an example of "winning hearts and minds" at a very significant level.

Perhaps the most impactful aspect of this fine book is Leedham's transparency when discussing his own reflections and struggles at the end of the year that he spent away from his family. It would have been easy for him to write the story of what happened in Pakistan and to tell a very credible story keeping things at a strictly professional and military level - but it would not have been as powerful a book. The fact that he shared the pain of seeing his marriage disintegrate and himself struggle with post-deployment depression and despair makes the book a powerful weapon - both for helping and giving permission to returning warriors to be honest about their own struggles, and also to help those of us who have not been to war to understand the depth of the struggle of the warriors whom we wish to support.

I will let the author speak for himself here at his most transparent and vulnerable moment. The context is that Leedham has returned to the U.S. and the troops he had trained were sent on a mission under Pakistani leadership. The result was the death of one of the Pathan warriors, and Leedham surmised that had he himself been there to lead the operation, perhaps that soldier would still be alive. Classic survivor's guilty:

"My feelings of guilt were overwhelming. The General had been right. I should have gone on that operation. If I had done so, I would have negotiated with the idiot of a local commander in order to get my way [to conduct the operation at night rather in the daylight.] I knew that if I'd been in Turbat, Iqbal would still be alive. At that moment, I felt I would have to live with the guilt of his death forever.

My journal entry that day read: 'More pain, more hurt, I'm nearly at the end of my tether; am thinking about ending it all.'

. . . So the mindset and resolute decision to get the hell out of life if the situation dictated was one I had accepted and lived with for a year. I suppose, I was still in that mindset during this first week at home [during which his wife had asked for a divorce], but the entire contemplation was in response to the prospect of losing my family and my questioning the point of life itself. Given what I'd gone through the decision seemed so very matter of fact.

It is though, in reflection, a period of intense vulnerability and is a crucial 'preventative medicine' phase that is often tragically omitted by the families who end up mourning combatants who decide to take their own lives when they return to shattered homes or relationships." (Pages 317-18)

This book, therefore, is appropriate reading for the warrior community and for all of us who care about seeing these men and women make a successful transition back to "The World."

We owe Howard Leedham a debt of gratitude - for his courage on the battlefield and his courage in the literary battlefield.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsung heroes, 30 Oct 2012
This review is from: Ask Forgiveness Not Permission (Paperback)
This is a cracking tale about a brave effort to police the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan after the Taleban had been sent packing. It is written by someone who really knows what he is talking about. The political, bureaucratic and logistical nightmares surrounding the whole operation illustrate how painfully neglected this theatre became after the wild goose chase that was the invasion of Iraq. All the guys in this book are genuine heroes and it tells their story well.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A new benchmark in true Military stories, 22 Jan 2013
This review is from: Ask Forgiveness Not Permission (Paperback)
Ask Forgiveness Not Permission, sets the new benchmark in true military stories.
We've all read so much about covert Ops stuff, but this story demonstrates how one mans drive, singlemindedness, negotiating ability managed to carve success through the hurdles of beaurocracy, budgets and political barriers.

Many factors are important to the success of a tight military unit, but three of the most important are trust, respect and loyalty. These are qualities that are seldom found in the normal world. Howard demonstrates these qualities to perfection.

Howard Leedhams operation on the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan, although successful, eventually came at great personal cost.

Any aspiring leader or manager, regardless of thier line of business should read and learn from this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Triumph of common sense and guts, 8 Nov 2012
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This is a riveting account of how one remarkable man managed to overcome the deliberate apathy and negligence of the diplomats who were supposed to be supporting him, and the frustrating bureacracy of a Pakistani military that had its own internal challenges in terms of divided loyalties. It is also a lesson of how much could be achieved with so little in the way of resources, and highlights just how critical a role true leadership plays in these situations. Leedham managed to pull together a formidible fighting force with meagre resources, while having to resort to entrepreneurial and unorthodox methods to secure the necessary equipment and firepower for his soldiers. One can't help feeling that the cost of waging war could be significantly reduced, and the effectiveness of the resources applied could be significantly increased if more men like Leedham were to populate the senior ranks of the military.
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5.0 out of 5 stars cracking read, 15 Jun 2014
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This book is very in depth about the build up to a truly magnificent finale, also the troops involved are all heroes fighting for what is right.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking read, 13 April 2014
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This review is from: Ask Forgiveness Not Permission (Paperback)
I was a fellow "junglie" with Howard flying Wessex 5 helicopters on 845 squadron back in 1983. One day he vanished from the squadron to do SF work ... next thing I know he's become an American! "Ask forgiveness not permission" is a cracking combination of these two. Drawing inspiration from his British heritage - Lawrence at Aqaba, the anti-insurgent campaign in Malaya - he manages to restart a covert State Department helicopter operation against Al Qaeda in northern Pakistan and make it flourish. Somewhere along the way he must have acquired the skills of tact and diplomacy, how to deal with the institutionalised petty government bureaucrats whose job is to stay safe and protect their own empire. That would have foiled the rest of us junglies. And it is here that his SF background shines through. I was gripped. A great modern day adventurer and TCBO.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic story, 7 Mar 2014
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The pride Howard Leedham had in his team is tangible and shone through the entire book, as did his ability to build quickly trust and respect with both the senior Pakistani military as well as his Pathans. Although the book was tinged with some sadness and regret, I thought it was a warm and heartfelt testament to a year in Pakistan.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A very good read!, 19 Nov 2013
By 
J. D. Duckham "jamesofliss" (Hampshire, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ask Forgiveness Not Permission (Paperback)
I was up till 3-30 this morning reading - could not put it down - Howard Leedham is not a professional writer, he is a soldier and that comes across with his down to earth narrative of training and leading a group of Pathan soldiers of the Pakistan Army against the Taliban, using helicopters to effect rapid deployment and exit over a large area. It is a narrative of overcoming many problems occasioned by ones allies in addition to the real enemy.
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5.0 out of 5 stars What an amazing year, 26 Oct 2013
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Howard's story is a fantastic read, well written, great descriptions and a very human reflection on this amazing year. This book blends so much from the human aspects, American and Pakistani, strategic and family, fear and laughter. I really enjoyed it.
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Ask Forgiveness Not Permission
Ask Forgiveness Not Permission by Howard Leedham (Paperback - 30 Oct 2012)
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