Masterful, complex, and heartfelt, from the deeply personal to the critically strategic. Captures many lessons on many levels. Storytelling at its best—educational and inspirational. A unique, important, and enduring history captured for all who want to learn.”

Ambassador Hank Crumpton, former senior CIA officer

an incredible read, character-driven story…I learned so much from this book…it’s going to inspire a lot of people…Toby Harnden is an accomplished author, editor and journalist, known for in-depth reporting, and fearless approach to writing.”

Jack Carr, former SEAL, author, and host of Danger Close podcast.

“This is Afghanistan’s Black Hawk Down…Harnden’s account is both well-informed and panoramic.”

Daily Telegraph

“The hard-to-imagine drama, in the hands of another narrator, could easily turn overwrought; in this book, it is not. First Casualty is rife with heroic moments. But it is the variety of the human reactions in those moments, and afterward, that separates this book from others. Fear, combat fatigue, and sadness appear often in the narrative…This book is compelling, sometimes disturbing, but in a necessary way.”

Philip Mudd, former senior CIA officer, The Cipher Brief

“Gripping…a terrific action narrative…Harnden secured a coup by persuading the CIA to give him access.”

Max Hastings, The Sunday Times of London

“I’m a little hacked off at Toby Harnden because I stayed up most of the night finishing First Casualty. Incredible piece of reporting & writing. Been a fan since Dead Man Risen. Former Royal Navy officer. Knows military. Phenomenal story.”

Stuart Stevens, author of It Was All a Lie

First Casualty is exceptionally well-written, meticulously researched, and an absolute page-turner

Steve Balestrieri, SOFREP

Heart-stopping, inspiring…poignantly recounted…makes a significant contribution to our understanding of CIA’s impact on the war…Harnden deserves kudos for lifting the veil on this amazing mission and shining the spotlight with grace and historical accuracy on Mike Spann, Dave Tyson and their fellow courageous Alpha Team members”

Daniel Hoffman, former senior CIA officer, Washington Times

“I just finished this extraordinary book by Toby Harnden…a can’t miss book that tells the story of the early days of war in Afghanistan with a focus on American hero and patriot Johnny Micheal Spann.

Steve Schmidt, The Lincoln Project

Through the story of CIA ‘Team Alpha’―the first Americans behind-enemy-lines after 9/11―award-winning author Toby Harnden helps us understand the opening phase of the War in Afghanistan: from the selection of the multi-talented team, through to their wild travails on horseback; and from syncing up with battle-hardened Afghan allies, through to the dramatic fire-fight at the Qala-i-Jangi fortress which saw the death of the first American casualty Mike Spann, as well as dozens of Al Qaeda at the hands of his comrade David Tyson. You’ll struggle to put this book down.

Dr. Andrew Hammond, Historian and Curator, International Spy Museum

I just finished Toby Harnden’s First Casualty. It is truly fantastic. This story had to be told. I know many of the individuals in the book. I feel an intense pride in their bravery and accomplishments. I am honored and humbled to have served with such heroes. Extraordinary read.

Marc Polymeropoulos, former senior CIA officer

“truly an incredible story…a sober, candid, and raw look at the conflict and those who fought it”

Joshua Huminski, National Security Institute

“Run, don’t walk to pick this up. Toby Harnden has done a masterful job…What a powerful read.”

James Gagliano, former senior FBI agent

Meticulously researched and told with page-turning pace and power, Harnden’s account of the six day battle that began the War in Afghanistan incisively demonstrates how many dangerous precedents were set at the outset of the conflict”

Waterstones – Best Politics Books of 2021

“Harnden presents behind-the-scenes events and recently declassified facts in this exceptionally detailed guide to Afghanistan’s geography, ethnic groups, and persistent and dire conflicts, culminating in the Al Qaeda uprising at the Qala-i Jangi fortress where America suffered its first casualty in the war on terror. Harnden scoured the archives and extensively interviewed surviving witnesses to shed light on this pivotal time. First Casualty is the closest readers will come to really knowing a spy; Harnden intimately portrays who these men were and are as America attempts to extract itself from its longest war.”


“Extremely good”

Maggie Haberman, New York Times

“Definitive account…given unparalleled access by the CIA…Harnden paints a panoramic picture…a story that has never been told before, and one that I could hardly step away from as I tore through the book in a few short days…Do yourself a favor and read his book if you want to know how we responded as a country in the immediate aftermath of September 11, 2001. You will not regret it.”

Sandboxx News

First Casualty is an incredible book.  Highly recommend.  Well done, Toby Harnden

Don Bentley, author of Target Acquired

“enthralling and harrowing…like a Tom Clancy novel and a post-action report had a child…gripping…gives you a genuine connection to the men and women in the story…an intense ride…a great read indeed

William Kimbrough, DoD Reads review

“First Casualty reads like a Tom Clancy thriller, yet every word is true, and painstakingly researched. This is modern warfare close-up and raw: the pity, the heroism, the cruelty, and very occasionally some moments of glory too, as human beings are pushed to their furthest limits of endurance, and beyond. Harnden tells the extraordinary story of the battle of Qala-i-Jangi with verve, intelligence, acute analysis and flashes of ironic wit. It would make a terrific movie.”

Andrew Roberts, historian and author

“Vividly describes the rollicking adventures Langley’s men enjoyed amid the blood, dust and tribesmen.”

Bloomberg News

“An absolutely gripping read”

Brad Thor, thriller writer

“This is an amazing book – highly recommended.”

Marc Ambinder, journalist and author

“First Casualty is the closest most readers will come to really knowing a spy; Harnden intimately portrays who these men were and are as America attempts to extract itself from its longest war.”

James Pekoll, Booklist

“Harnden skillfully interweaves dramatic action sequences with the backstories of the book’s central figures, and briskly highlights the failures of U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Readers will be swept up in this little-known chapter of America’s ‘forever war.”

Publishers Weekly

“Several people I know with firsthand knowledge of the events described have been very complimentary about the book’s fidelity to the truth and detail.”

Bill Harlow, The Cipher Brief

“The heart of Harnden’s readable book is the Battle of Qala-i Jangi, a bloody, six-day revolt of around 400 al Qaeda prisoners in a 19th-century fortress designed by British engineers during earlier imperial adventures in northern Afghanistan…Harnden’s scoop is to have convinced the CIA to give him access to its key men from those early days.”

The Spectator

Mesmerized. Captivated. Fascinated. Also enthralled! Everyone in my family is getting this book for Christmas

Jeanne Polydoris

an incredible and intense account of CIA and 5th Special Forces Group”

Jason Piccolo, host of The Protestors podcast