Ask Forgiveness Not Permission, Howard Leedham

Ask Forgiveness Not Permission, Howard Leedham

The true story of a discrete, post 9/11 operation in the 'Badlands' of Pakistan

In 2003-2004 Howard Leedham, a former member of British Special Forces, took command of a small detachment of American helicopters based in the north-west of Pakistan (run by the US State Department's Air Wing). He managed to win over the Pakistani Army and was given operational control of fifty Pathans from their border force's own special forces. After a period of intense training Leedham's small unit achieved a series of dramatic successes over the local Taliban and their allies.

The prologue compares this story to the sort of tale of adventure that would have appealed to Kipling and an audience raised on tales of the British in India. That was a genre that existed for the best of a century, from the Victorian heyday of the Empire to the auto-biographies of Second World War officers (especially officers in Ghurkha regiments). The book does have some features in common with these earlier works - principally in having a British officer leading local troops with great success, and just as in earlier examples of the genre the author became very attached to his men.

The similarities end there. Leedham is entirely free of the often patronising tone of many earlier authors. He clearly respected the men under his command, not only for their fighting abilities but for ease with which they learnt how to deal with new complex technologies and adapted to Leedham's type of mission. His aim was always to create a unit that could operate without him, and by the time his contract ended he had succeeded.

This is a compelling story, and a reminder of a how much success a small but well trained force can achieve even in the most difficult of circumstances.

An Irregular Sailor
Induction and Training
Quetta. A New Beginning
Finding the Militia
Final Preparation
Train to Task
A Pig and a Poke
Near Misses
Operation Broken Finger
Congress and a Martyr
The Clock Runs
The Last Supper
The Fat Lady Sings an Encore
The Epilogue - The Bomb

Author: Howard Leedham
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 338
Publisher: Bene Factum
Year: 2012

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