Britain’s Prince Harry is to be “immediately” pulled out of fighting Taliban forces in Afghanistan after details of his secret deployment were leaked.
The 23-year-old prince – who is a second lieutenant in the British Army’s Household Cavalry – was 10 weeks into his proposed 14-week tour of the dangerous Helmand Province when a US website broke the agreed news blackout yesterday (28.02.08).
Harry’s deployment had only been made possible because of a deal between the British Royal Family, the British Ministry of Defence and the British media.
The operation was kept top secret because it was felt that if the enemy knew about Harry’s involvement it would not only make him a target, but also his fellow soldiers.
In his role as a battlefield air controller the prince, who is third-in-line to the throne, was charged with calling in air strikes using a surveillance system known as Kill TV.
During his time fighting in the war-torn town of Garmsir he is believed to have killed up to 30 of the enemy by directing at least three air strikes.
Harry – who was left bitterly disappointed when plans to send him to war-torn Iraq were scrapped last year – was well aware of the dangers he faced and has even joked that his army nickname is the ‘Bullet Magnet’.
However, the prince’s position was made untenable when US website the Drudge Report posted details of his army manoeuvres in Afghanistan.
Top army chiefs held an emergency meeting to discuss the next plan of action and “following a detailed assessment of the risks” they have decided to withdraw Harry “immediately”.
A statement released by the Ministry of Defence today (29.02.08) read: “This decision has been taken primarily on the basis that the worldwide media coverage of Prince Harry in Afghanistan could impact on the security of those who are deployed there, as well as the risks to him as an individual soldier.”
The decision was taken by Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, in consultation with Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt.
Harry is expected to fly back home to the UK by the end of the weekend.