Army pulls Prince Harry out of Afghanistan
PRINCE Harry is to be withdrawn from Afghanistan after his security was compromised by international media, the Ministry of Defence confirmed today.
The 23-year-old Household Cavalry officer has been secretly fighting the Taliban in Helmand Province as a battlefield air controller and Spartan light tank commander for the past 10 weeks.
But he is now set to be flown home to the UK after the collapse of a news blackout deal.
The move, which will be a bitter blow to the prince, came after foreign websites leaked details of his deployment.
The leaks finally forced the breakdown last night of an agreement by the British media not to report the fact that Harry was in Afghanistan.
In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said: "Following a detailed assessment of the risks by the operational chain of command, the decision has been taken by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, Chief of Defence Staff, in consultation with General Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff, to withdraw Prince Harry from Afghanistan immediately.
"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."
It was General Dannatt who faced the task last year of announcing a U-turn on plans to deploy the Prince – a Cornet, or Second Lieutenant, in the Blues and Royals – to Iraq.
Intelligence picked up a series of specific threats to Harry and his comrades in Iraq after details of his planned deployment were announced and received widespread publicity.
It is feared the revelation that the third in line to the throne has been fighting in Helmand would increase the tempo of attacks on British forces by the Taliban.
No details are available on when he will arrive home.
The MoD statement added: "The decision by elements of the foreign media to report Prince Harry's presence in Afghanistan without any consultation with the Ministry of Defence is regrettable.
"However, this was a circumstance that we have always been aware of and one for which we have had contingency plans in place.
"Whilst it had been intended that Prince Harry should return in a matter of weeks with the remainder of the Household Cavalry Regiment Battlegroup, the situation has now clearly changed."
During his foreshortened tour Harry enjoyed a level of anonymity he has never experienced as a member of the Royal Family.
In one interview with pooled media he commented: "I think this is about as normal as I'm ever going to get."
During a posting to Garmsir, the southernmost part of Helmand under allied control, the Prince was able to go on patrol and mix with locals who had no idea he was a senior member of the Royal Family.
His work as a "JTAC" (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) involved carrying out detailed aerial surveillance behind Taliban lines and even calling in bomb strikes on confirmed enemy bunker positions.
But details of his deployment were broadcast around the world last night after the deal with the media broke down following reports on foreign websites.
The development will be a major blow to Harry who considered leaving the Army last spring after the cancellation of his Iraq tour.
Speaking just last week Harry told of his frustration with the media spotlight in the UK and his preference for the frontline compared to being in barracks at Windsor.
"I don't want to sit around in Windsor," he said.
"But I generally don't like England that much and, you know, it's nice to be away from all the press and the papers and all the general ***** that they write."
He also expressed hopes of being able to return to Afghanistan as early as this summer but that possibility is now likely to be in doubt.
He also conceded that he could be a "top target" for homegrown jihadists in the UK now that he is known to have been fighting the Taliban.
"Once this... comes out there'll probably be every single person, every single person that supports them will be trying to slot me," he said.
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