Prince Harry has defended himself over an interview in which he said he took Taleban fighters “out of the game”, and that soldiers “take a life to save a life”.
The 28-year-old Apache co-pilot gunner this week confirmed he shot insurgents dead from the cockpit, but said opening fire was necessary to protect allied troops and the Afghan people.
Harry has been heavily criticised by some for saying that killing the enemy while serving in Afghanistan was a job “you would expect to do”.
Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War Coalition, called comments “crass”, while others said he was insensitive.
Speaking at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire yesterday, after his return from Helmand, Prince Harry said: “I think, for the thousands of guys that are on operations at the moment, we are continuing, essentially, to try and do a job. A job for ourselves, a job for the guys left and right of us and, from my point of view, especially for the guys on the ground.
“We are supporting the Afghan people, the Afghan army. The way that things are going are fantastic – I suppose that sounds a typical MoD/army answer, but it’s true.
“The difference between 2006 and now is absolutely fantastic.
“You get asked to do things that you would expect to do wearing this uniform, and it’s a simple as that really.”
The prince left Afghanistan on Monday, and has been on a post-deployment “decompression” at a British military base in Cyprus. He flew from Akrotiri on board a personnel aircraft and landed at the Oxfordshire base with 662 Squadron, 3 Regiment Army Air Corps, at about 4:45pm yesterday.
Harry did not go with the rest of his 662 Squadron to their headquarters in Wattisham in Suffolk. St James’s Palace said the prince left Brize Norton privately, but did not comment on where he was heading.
Asked what his overall reflections were on his deployment to Helmand, Harry said: “It has been great, it’s a hell of an experience.
“I’m really proud of the guys – the whole squadron and obviously everyone else out there.
“Everything seems to be going in the right direction. It’s very different to when I was last out there.”
The prince, known as Captain Wales in the army, is likely to have drunk his first beer in 20 weeks while in Cyprus, and he said he enjoyed the 24-hour stopover.
“I’m just thrilled to be back… a bit of blue sky in Cyprus, a bit of decompression, some comedy, and back to the snow,” he said.
Harry said being in Afghanistan gave him “life experiences that you get nowhere else”.
He revealed he does not have any particular plans for the coming year, but he would like to dedicate more time to royal duties and charitable causes.
Asked what 2013 had in store, he said: “I really don’t know. The army will have an idea, I presume, and whatever that is, I will do. Given the opportunity, I’d like to take on more royal stuff.
“Hopefully, there will be a few gaps that open up, and as long as I stay flying and continue with the job, then I’ll be able to pay some more attention to the charities and stuff like that.”
Asked if he would like a “normal life”, the prince said: “I don’t know what normal is anymore. I never really have done.
“There’s nothing normal about what we’ve been doing for the last four and a half months. There’s nothing normal about what’s going on out there.
“Christ, in the last day that I was out there, a seven-year-old girl got shot down by the insurgents. So normality is a very, very ambiguous thing.”
He added that like most other soldiers on their way home, he was looking forward to seeing his family.