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Task Force Black: The Explosive True Story of the Secret Special Forces War in Iraq Hardcover – June 7, 2011

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; Reprint edition (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312541279
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312541279
  • Product Dimensions: 1.1 x 6.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (47 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #397,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This is an essential record of a remarkable military period. Too often Special Forces operations are shrouded in uncontextual mystery, rendering many works about them speculative homoerotic hagiographies. Urban is immune to such nonsense."
--Sam Kiley, The Times (London)
"Urban's book catches the tensions which surfaced between various branches of the military and government departments.... what it does do is give human faces to a bunch of remarkable men."
--The Independent

About the Author

MARK URBAN is Diplomatic and Defense Editor of the BBC’s Newsnight. He has covered many of the world’s conflicts during the past twenty-five years, including the Iraq campaign that began in 2003. He lives in London.

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written and is very easy to read.
Charles B Patterson
This book provides a very interesting account of the British SAS' operations in Iraq in the years after the initial invasion.
Nick Dowling
The author uses far too much jargon and is simply not a good story-teller.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Nick Dowling on April 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book provides a very interesting account of the British SAS' operations in Iraq in the years after the initial invasion. It covers the activities undertaken by the SAS, Special Boat Service (SBS) and associated US special forces units in a surprising level of detail given the sensitivity and recentness of these operations and is well written throughout. Unlike many writers who've covered the SAS, Urban generally maintains objectivity and discusses the shortcomings of the tactics they used and problems caused by leadership tensions. The material on the negative impact of prisoner abuse on the operations of British and, to a lesser extent, US special forces was particularly interesting. This honest approach greatly strengthens Urban's conclusion that the SAS played a role in Iraq which was out of all proportion to the size of the forces it deployed. The book also includes some interesting photos of SAS troops in Iraq, though these are padded out with generic photos of regular US troops which appear to have been included to illustrate the kinds of terrain the SAS operated in.

For all that, the book does have some weaknesses. Notably, Urban seems to have fallen victim to some SAS chauvinism. The SBS are subjected to what appears to be unwarranted criticism, including what appears to be a rumor that the SAS recovered a SBS rifle which had been captured during the invasion and eventually made it into the hands of Abu-Muab al-Zarqawi - it is stated only that this gun "looked suspiciously like" one of the SBS weapons, but surely this should have been confirmed before it was included in print.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Thomas M. Magee on July 18, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This book is excellent! There are a lot of stories that came out of Iraq and are still coming. This book has some of those new stories. Special Operations did a great deal to help bring about victory in Iraq. Prior to this book that story has not been told. The book gives great details about that story.

This book is about primarily the story of the British SAS in Iraq from the first in 03 up to 09. The story is a mix of tales of individual raids with a little bit of big picture thrown in for good measure. The story also indirectly comments a lot about US special operations activities in Iraq. That story line alone is worth the price of the book.

It reads really easily. Almost anyone will enjoy the book. It covers events with a mix of newpaper and novelist style. Nor does it get bogged down in the minute detail of the war. Once you pick it up you won't be able to put it down.

I am surprised that this book got published. It has a lot of detail about how the American Special Operations operates. You learn how the collect information and plot to squeeze the enemy network out of existance. The reader also gets information about the Iran connection to Iraq. This book is the first to talk about the 07 seizure of Iranian agents in Irbil Iraq. It also goes into details about the Iranian "rat" line of supplies coming into Iraq. How Iranian agents directly killed US soldiers in South Iraq in 07. Few other publications have told that story. This book does cover that previously untold story.

Great Book!
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dr Neil MacNeill on April 15, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition
Mark Urban: Task Force Black

Mark Urban has a journalist's eye for finding the important issues in the muddied waters of reporting modern warfare. While the overt purpose of the book is to relate the British Special Forces' experiences in Iraq, the standout hero is the American general Stan McChrystal, who re-wrote the special warfare manual.

Vietnam taught the world that external military forces cannot win a war against a determined enemy that occupies the ideological, nationalistic or religious high ground. The Phoenix Program was launched in Vietnam in 1967 to counter the Communists, using the terror tactics. Intelligence identified the communist cadres who were embedded in village structures and they were neutralised. The black clad operators dressed as the Vietnamese communists and if communist retribution in 1975 is a measure of effectiveness, the program was successful, although it had received bad press as an assassination program.

McChrystal faced a massive problem in Iraq as competing groups fought for control. He developed the next iteration of Phoenix, and worked out a program of removing the opposition leadership, and those responsible for allied deaths. So, what was different? McChrystal was able to utilise massive intelligence collection strategies that included Humint and Sigint. The ubiquitous cell phone was the Achilles' heel for many of the opposition, which the Americans milked dry. Computer technology allowed surreptitious vehicle tracking, while the predators relayed real-time vision.
Urban was able to recount the sensitivities that the British faced in Iraq, when working with the Americans. It was sad that the relationship often boiled down to personalities.

This is an excellent book, and Urban's clever writing accommodates the requirements of a diverse range of readers.
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