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

Daily Telegraph

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

“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

“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

“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.”


“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

“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

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

Max Hastings, The Sunday Times of London

“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