In April 2006 a small British peace-keeping force was sent to Helmand province in southern Afghanistan. Within weeks they were cut off and besieged by some of the world's toughest fighters: the infamous Taliban, who were determined to send the foreigners home again. Defence Secretary John Reid had hoped that Operation Herrick 4 could be accomplished without a shot being fired; instead, the Army was drawn into the fiercest fighting it had seen for fifty years. Millions of bullets and thousands of lives have been expended since then in an under-publicized but bitter conflict whose end is still not in sight. Some people consider it the fourth Anglo-Afghan War since Victorian times. How on earth did this happen? And what is it like for the troops on the front line of the 'War on Terror'?
James Fergusson takes us to the dark heart of the battle zone. Here, in their own words and for the first time, are the young veterans of Herrick 4. Here, unmasked, are the civilian and military officials responsible for planning and executing the operation. Here, too, are the Taliban themselves, to whom Fergusson gained unique and extraordinary access. Controversial, fascinating and occasionally downright terrifying, A Million Bullets analyses the sorry slide into war in Helmand and asks this most troubling question: could Britain perhaps have avoided the violence altogether?
James Fergusson is a freelance journalist and foreign correspondent who has written for many publications including the Independent, The Times, the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail and The Economist. From 1997 he reported from Mazar-i-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, covering that city's fall to the Taliban. In 1998 he became the first western journalist in more than two years to interview the fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He lives in Edinburgh and is married with two children.