In 2003 the United States and their Coalition Allies invaded the country of Iraq. Allthough much of the details concerning Operation Iraqi Freedom have been depicted in more than one book, Mark Urban took a different route. He has brought to light the covert operations of the world’s most famous Regiment, Britain’s 22nd Special Air Service. Task Force Black takes the reader from the Regiment’s initial operations during the invasion, when British commanders were hard pressed as to find usefullness for their countrys most elite Soldiers. It then follows through the secret war with the Insurgency, when the “Blades” were parntered up with Stanley McCrystals JSOC task group. TF Black also follows up with details about how British Special Forces were relying on intelligence assets in the form of the Secret Intelligence Service (or MI6 as they are more commonly known).
The author, Mark Urban – himself a British journalist working for the BBC (and former tank commander in the Territorial Army) –is no stranger to the topic. His previous work about UK Special Forces, “Big Boys’ Rules”, told the story of the SAS and their operations in Northern Ireland.
Task Force Black allthough not packed with tales of British Special Forces, and represents more of a general look at how SOF was being used to track down key elements of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, as well as the famous hunt for Zarqawi. It also provides a better look at the politics involved between the Shia and Sunni, but if you are familiar with this topic, you will not find anything new here.
The book is well written; the stories hold together, but one might find the political rattles simply boring as they often only paint the bigger picture of British/US policies of post Saddam Iraq.
All-in-all the book is worth reading. It provides a more comprehensive outline of just how close Iraq was to the brink of total anarchy and how a small band of warriors, technicians and aviators turned the tide –facing, what seemed at the time, impossible odds– forever changing the face of modern counterterrorism.