Harry at war
Read a full interview with Harry here THE Ministry of Defence was considering last night whether to pull Prince Harry out of Afghanistan after news that he has been fighting the Taleban for the past ten weeks appeared on a website.
The revelation immediately sparked fears that Harry, nicknamed "the bullet magnet" by fellow soldiers, would be targeted by Taleban forces in the war-ravaged Helmand province, where he has been based.
The deployment had been cloaked in secrecy under a news black-out deal agreed across UK and selected international media to prevent details reaching enemy troops and endangering the prince – third in line to the throne – and his comrades.
But news of the deployment appeared yesterday on a well-known US website, the Drudge Report. Bizarrely, however, it has emerged that the Australian women's magazine New Idea actually broke the story on 15 January. It was subsequently reported in a German women's magazine, Frau im Spiegel, and picked up by the Germany daily newspaper Bild before it appeared on Drudge.
As part of the secrecy deal, a group of journalists visited the prince in Helmand on condition details would be published only once he was safely back in the UK. The deal was arranged after Harry's planned tour of duty to Iraq last year had to be cancelled after publicity created a security risk.
Sir Richard Dannatt, Chief of the General Staff and head of the army, said: "I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us.
"This is in stark contrast to the highly responsible attitude of the whole of the UK print and broadcast media, along with a small number overseas, who entered into an understanding with us over the coverage of Prince Harry on operations.
"After a lengthy period of discussion between the MoD and the editors of regional, national and international media, the editors took the commendable attitude to restrain their coverage. I would like to thank them for that, and I do appreciate that once the story was in the public domain they had no choice but to follow suit."
Defending the decision to send the prince to Afghanistan in the first place, Gen Dannatt said the past two months had shown it was "perfectly possible" for Harry to be employed just the same as other army officers of his rank and experience.
"His conduct on operations in Afghanistan has been exemplary. He has been fully involved in operations and has run the same risks as everyone else in his battlegroup," the general said.
"In common with all of his generation in the army today, he is a credit to the nation.
"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 so was manageable. Now the story is in the public domain, the Chief of Defence Staff and I will take advice from operational commanders about whether his deployment can continue."
He also appealed to the media not to report Prince Harry's "every move".
Speaking before his deployment was revealed, Harry said he could be a "top target" for terrorists in the UK after fighting the Taleban in Afghanistan. "Once this… comes out, every single person that supports them will be trying to slot me," he said. "Now that you come to think about it, it's quite worrying."
After the disappointment over Iraq, when Harry was prevented from serving as a Scimitar light tank troop leader, he retrained as a battlefield air con-troller, known as a joint terminal attack controller (JTAC), with a view to going to Afghanistan. He flew out on 14 December, two months into 52 Brigade's current winter tour.
He spent several weeks in Garmsir, in the far south of Helmand, only 500 metres from front-line Taleban positions.
Harry was part of a two-man tactical air control party, working with Corporal of Horse David Baxter, from Coleraine, Northern Ireland. The pair's role was to liaise with artillery and mortar teams to co-ordinate fire on the Taleban under the command of battery commander Major Andrew Dimmock.
Before any air strike on the Taleban, targets had to be positively identified – meaning the prince and senior officers above him had to be satisfied not only that they were enemy fighters being targeted, but that they presented a clear threat.
The process involved carrying out regular "pattern of life" studies of areas under enemy control – both to ensure there was no risk to civilians and to build up a picture of Taleban movements.
He has since left Garmsir to work in another part of Helmand, details of which cannot be reported for security reasons.
The prince had been due to complete a four-month tour without the standard two-week R&R break other soldiers enjoy.
There was no steer last night from the MoD on the future of his deployment. A spokesman said: "The operational chain of command is now looking at a variety of options."
The prince admitted just last week, in a media interview due to be reported on his safe return, that he could be a target for Taleban-supporting extremists in the UK on his return.
"Once this film comes out, there'll probably be every single person, every single person that supports them, will be trying to slot me," he said.
"Now that you come to think about it, it's quite worrying."
He added: "I think there's a lot of guys here who hopefully won't be targeted, but, as I say, now that this film has been made and now… people will know I'm out here, no doubt I'll be a top target."
Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, said Prince Harry has been an "exemplary" soldier, adding: "The whole of Britain will be proud of the outstanding service he is giving."
There were also tributes to Harry from the other political parties. David Cameron, the Conservative leader, said: "Like all the troops currently fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Harry has been incredibly brave. He has pursued his desire to get on the front line and serve his country with huge determination and courage."
He added: "I applaud the British press for not breaking the story and risking his life and others around him."
FEAR DIVIDES THE COUNTRY
WHILE Prince Harry has been in action in the front line against the Taleban, it's been claimed military action has failed to unite the region.
On Wednesday, the US Director of National Intelligence, Michael McConnell, informed the Senate Armed Services Committee that the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai controls just under one-third of the country.
He said that most of Afghanistan is under local tribal control, the rest under Taleban rule.
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