Prince Harry 'betrayed' British Army as 'kill list' claim riles Taliban

Senior personnel believe prince has increased terrorist threat to family, as Kabul condemns his 'war crimes'

Britain's Prince Harry in an Apache attack helicopter in Afghanistan, where he says he killed 25 Taliban insurgents. AP
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Prince Harry has “betrayed the fighting ethos” of the British Army and is “pathetic” for disclosing that he killed 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, senior officers told The National.

The British royal has raised the terrorism threat against himself and his family by boasting about the deaths in his autobiography, Spare, they said.

He has also given a false portrayal of the British military training by dehumanising the enemy in referring to them as “chess pieces”, the officers said.

This came as a leading Taliban figure, who was part of a negotiating team that dealt with the US before the fall of Kabul in 2021, taunted the prince with “defeat” and said his actions were “war crimes”.

“Bragging about how many enemy soldiers you can have killed is simply not what British soldiers do,” a senior officer told The National.

“I, like every British soldier serving or veteran, am hugely disappointed that Prince Harry has betrayed the fighting ethos of the British Army.”

It is understood that UK counter-terrorist officers will now examine the security risk the disclosures bring, with the Home Office likely to review its decision to withdraw Prince Harry’s close protection when in Britain.

“He has rekindled the threat against him,” said Col Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan in 2003. “Maybe their memories had faded but this will certainly resurrect the desire of some people to take revenge against him.”

A former commanding officer of the Coldstream Guards said that it was a pity that Prince Harry “was not a little more circumspect” in sharing his war experiences.

“His unique position demands that he considers the consequences of what he writes more thoughtfully than others,” he told The National. “What he says and does is more closely scrutinised than are the words and actions of a soldier.”

Former police superintendent Bill Duff, who also served in the British Army, told The National that Prince Harry had “made himself a target”, adding that it was a “stupid, stupid” statement to make.

He said that the disclosure was “quite pathetic”.

Taliban backlash

Prince Harry's comparison of insurgents with chess pieces was condemned by senior Taliban leader and negotiator Anas Haqqani on Twitter.

“The ones you killed were not chess pieces, they were humans; they had families who were waiting for their return,” he wrote.

“Among the killers of Afghans, not many have your decency to reveal their conscience and confess to their war crimes.

“The truth is what you’ve said: Our innocent people were chess pieces to your soldiers, military and political leaders.”

An officer who is supposed to be above the more base instincts of people should be a little bit more reserved and not talk about the killings as if he was on a grouse shoot
Simon Barry, retired colonel, Parachute Regiment

There had been concerns for the Duke of Sussex’s security after his two operational tours of Afghanistan in 2007 and 2012, the latter when he flew an Apache attack helicopter.

In Spare he graphically described how the gunship’s nose camera recorded missions, which included the Taliban killings.

He regarded the insurgents as “chess pieces removed from the board” and said the army trained him to think it was not possible to kill someone “if you see them as a person”.

The gunship footage provided him “with exactness how many enemy combatants I had killed … so my number is 25. It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me”.

Retired colonel Simon Barry, who commanded a Parachute Regiment battalion, also condemned the revelations.

“I would expect an officer who is supposed to be above the more base instincts of people should be a little bit more reserved and not talk about the killings as if he was on a grouse shoot.”

He added that the claims would assist the Taliban, who were “now playing as victims of royal murderers, which is not really helpful”, which “allows deflection from their true activities and atrocities”.

“Bragging about confirmed kills has never existed in the British Army,” he said.

Mr Duff said he had known a lot of British special forces soldiers who had been in Iraq and Afghanistan, but “I haven't heard a single one of them boasting about the numbers of people that they've killed”.

Col Kemp described the detailed account as “somewhat distasteful” adding that “officers, in particular, are supposed to be setting an example and that doesn’t amount to seeking glory in killing people”.

He also suggested that it was incorrect for Prince Harry to state that the British Army trained soldiers to see the enemy “as less than human” or to “view them as just being chess pieces to be knocked over”.

“This simply isn't true and if that was true it would encourage actions that contravene the laws of armed conflict,” he said.

“Our actual training is the opposite to what he suggests. In addition, if people are killed they have to be treated respectfully and given a proper burial.”

The officers suggested part of the motivation behind the disclosure may be to ensure that Prince Harry has his royal protection officers restored.

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Updated: January 06, 2023, 3:19 PM