I completed two tours with the UK military in Afghanistan and remain a frequent visitor to the Country. All the criticisms of the British approach to counter insurgency in this book chime with my experience and I would heartily recommend it to both military and foreign policy professionals. Whilst it does highlight failure at the operational level, it lets the senior leadership off lightly by blaming the middle ranking officers for failing to support their superiors' attempts to change direction - in my experience this is rarely the case and more likely a result of contradictory directions by the senior leadership (a failure to identify and resource the main effort - did none of them read Commander ISAF's 2006 intent prioritising the Afghan National Security Forces?)
At 200 pages it is a relatively compact analysis and there is much more to be written about both the Iraq and Afghan campaigns, particularly on strategic planning across Whitehall. However, hopefully it's brevity will ensure a wide readership among my late colleagues.
Simply the best book on the British campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq - which is NOT at a "boots on the ground" perspective. Well written, with copious footnotes and succinct in its criticism. Indeed sometimes the authors appear to drawback.
Two short passages give you a flavour: The case of Afghanistan thereby points to the significant problems inthe British way of preparing for and prosecuting modern wars: the failure to properly formulate and resource strategy; the failure of civil-military coordination at both the strategic and oerational levels; the limitations of military improvisation and of 'muddling through' in the absence of a plan; and the dangers of letting strategic intent and operational approach develop independently (pg. 108)
...there is no fig leaf large enough here to cover the deep flaws in the British government's own approach and conduct in these counterinsurgency campaigns (Pg. 147).
One wonders if the Chilcot Enquiry read this, it certainly would have helped. Worth reading alongside Douglas Porch's book, which has a broader perspective and is even more critical.