D. Spencer Hines
2008-02-28 21:59:34 UTC
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 28, 2008
The International Herald Tribune
LONDON: Prince Harry has been serving on the front line in Afghanistan with
the British Army, calling in airstrikes on Taliban positions and going out
on foot patrols, the Ministry of Defense announced Thursday.
It is the first time in modern history that a member of the royal family has
faced such a dangerous deployment.
Harry was still in Afghanistan ? reportedly 500 meters from Taliban
positions ? and serving as a lieutenant in the Blues and Royals regiment.
"His conduct on operations in Afghanistan has been exemplary," said the head
of the army, Gen. Richard Dannatt. "He has been fully involved in operations
and has run the same risks as everyone else in his battle group."
Harry, who is third in line to the throne, has been in Afghanistan since
In a recorded interview, Harry said he was happy to be standing shoulder-to-
shoulder with his colleagues.
"It's nice just to be here with all the guys and just mucking in as one of
the lads," said Harry, who had expressed bitter disappointment when he was
banned from going to Iraq with his battalion last year. Army chiefs said
publicity surrounding his deployment could put him and his unit at risk.
Harry's uncle, Prince Andrew, was the last royal to see major combat when he
flew helicopters in the 1982 Falklands war.
Harry's planned deployment in Afghanistan had been disclosed to reporters,
with no specific date, and was not reported previously under a pool
agreement between the Ministry of Defense and all major news organizations
operating in Britain, including The Associated Press. The news blackout was
intended to reduce the risk to the prince and his regiment.
The news embargo was broken, however, after reports of the prince's
deployment were leaked and reported on a U.S. Web site, the Drudge Report.
Dannatt, the military commander, said he was "very disappointed" the story
Harry, 23, has been deployed in the restive Helmand province for 10 weeks,
where most of the 7,800 British troops in Afghanistan are based, according
to the military's statement.
Pooled video footage of Harry in Afghanistan showed the prince dressed in
camouflage fatigues patrolling arid and dusty terrain and firing a machine
Harry graduated from Sandhurst military academy in 2006 and trained as a
tank commander. After the decision not to send him to Iraq, he retrained as
a battlefield air controller, the job he has been filling in Afghanistan.
"In deciding to deploy him to Afghanistan, it was my judgment that with an
understanding with the media not to broadcast his whereabouts, the risk in
doing was manageable," said Dannatt.
"Now that the story is in the public domain, the Chief of Defense staff and
I will take advice from the operational commanders about whether his
deployment can continue," he said.
Harry was told of his deployment by his grandmother: Queen Elizabeth II.
"She told me I'm off to Afghanistan so that was the way it was supposed to
be," he said, describing how he confided in the queen since a deployment to
Iraq last year was canceled due to security concerns.
"She was very 'pro' me going then so I think she's relieved that I get the
chance to do what I want to do," he said.
In an interview by pool journalists recorded in Afghanistan, Harry said his
family did not know his whereabouts.
He said he was happy he was seeing combat and not being treated with kid
Harry has made headlines before with tales of his night-clubbing. He has
been pictured more than once scuffling with photographers who were waiting
for his often boozy exit. He was also photographed showing a Nazi salute
Prime Minister Gordon Brown said "the whole of Britain will be proud of the
outstanding service he is giving."
British troops have seen heavy fighting against a resurgent Taliban in
Helmand, and 89 British troops have died there since the start of operations