Prince Harry denies boasting about killing Taliban in Spare

The Duke of Sussex made the revelation in his autobiography

Prince Harry during a pre-flight check on the flight-line at Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan. AP
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Prince Harry has denied boasting about the number of Taliban fighters he killed while fighting for the British military in Afghanistan.

Speaking on a late-night talk show in the US, he suggested the information in his autobiography should be read in context and it was “very dangerous” to say he had boasted about the figure.

Speaking to Stephen Colbert on Tuesday, the Duke of Sussex criticised the way the media had covered the release of his ghost-written book, Spare.

He said: "Without a doubt, the most dangerous lie that they have told is that I somehow boasted about the number of people that I killed in Afghanistan.

"I should say, if I heard anyone boasting about that kind of thing, I would be angry. But it's a lie. My words are not dangerous, but the spin of my words are very dangerous," added the prince, who was seen entering the building for the interview accompanied by an armed bodyguard.

In the book, which was released on Tuesday, he points out most soldiers cannot say how many people they have killed.

“In battle conditions, there’s often a great deal of indiscriminate firing. But in the age of Apaches and laptops, everything I did in the course of two combat tours was recorded, time-stamped,” he writes.

“I could always say precisely how many enemy combatants I’d killed.

“And I felt it vital never to shy away from that number. Among the many things I learnt in the army, accountability was near the top of the list.

“So my number: Twenty-five. It wasn’t a number that gave me any satisfaction. But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed.

Prince Harry races to his Apache with fellow pilots during a shift at Camp Bastion, southern Afghanistan. AP

“Naturally, I’d have preferred not to have that number on my military CV, on my mind, but by the same token I’d have preferred to live in a world in which there was no Taliban, a world without war.”

He says he did not “think of those twenty-five as people”.

“They were chess pieces removed from the board, Bads taken away before they could kill Goods. I’d been trained to ‘other-ize’ them, trained well.”

Harry told Mr Colbert he was driven to discuss his kills by the goal of reducing veteran suicides.

"I made a choice to share it because having spent nearly two decades working with veterans all around the world, I think the most important thing is to be honest and to give space to others to be able to share their experiences without any shame," he said.

"And my whole goal, my attempt with sharing that detail, is to reduce the number of suicides."

But members of the military have accused Prince Harry of “betraying the ethos” of the British Army, saying it was pathetic to disclose that he killed 25 fighters in Afghanistan.

Speaking to The National, a senior officer said the account also gives a false portrayal of the British military training by dehumanising the enemy in referring to them as “chess pieces”.

“Bragging about how many enemy soldiers you can have killed is simply not what British soldiers do,” he said.

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

Other experts said the prince has rekindled the threat against his life.

Prince Harry's book is released - in pictures

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

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.

One of the duke’s bodyguards was seen carrying a Glock box, which is used to store weapons and ammunition, while he was making his way into the building in New York for his interview with Mr Colbert.

Mr Colbert asked the duke if he believed there was an "active campaign by the rest of your family, by the royal house ... to undermine this book", to which Harry replied: "Of course, mainly by the British press."

Asked again if it was "aided and abetted by the palace", Harry replied: "Yes, again, of course. This is the other side of the story."

Elsewhere in the interview, the duke said he believed press and public fascination with him and his wife was a way to make Meghan Markle leave the UK and to "break her".

He told Colbert: "We moved to California and for 12 months during lockdown where we said literally nothing ― it was relentless.

"They always knew my wife was going to leave [the UK] because of the way they were abusing her."

Harry then joked with the audience that the interview felt like "group therapy" after being asked whether the press fascination was designed to make Meghan leave the UK or break her.

Eventually, the duke said he felt like it was both.

The interview was part of a media blitz conducted by the prince to promote his book.

Prince Harry on patrol in the deserted town of Garmisir in 2008. AP
Updated: January 11, 2023, 12:23 PM