A defiant Prince Harry is flying back to Britain tonight determined to return as soon as possible to frontline duties in Afghanistan.
Before he boarded his flight the 23-year-old second Lieutenant in the Household Cavalry was moved from his base, only 500 yards from Taliban enemy lines in the volatile Helmand Province, to a secret and secure location after his presence in Afghanistan was leaked on an American web site.
Taliban insurgents have threatened to step up attacks on British forces after the news broke of Prince Harry’s secret deployment in the war zone.
A Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that his presence in Helmand Province meant that the Royal Family had joined in the “aggression against Muslims”.
“Prince Harry’s presence in Afghanistan encourages our fighters to launch more attacks on British forces. We think Prince Harry has been sent to Afghanistan only to boost the sagging morale of the British forces which are in serious trouble. For us he is just part of occupation forces. Instead of killing innocent people, the Prince should try to influence the British government to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.”
The decision to bring Prince Harry back to Britain for his own safety was taken by Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, the Chief of the Defence Staff early yesterday morning.
The Prince will go back to the Household Cavalry barracks at Windsor and keep a low profile over the coming weeks.
In an interview in Afghanistan he declared: “I don’t want to sit around in Windsor.”
Prince Harry acted as a Forward Air Controller, calling in air strikes, carrying out surveillance of Taliban fighters, and plotting bombing raid co-ordinates in the heat of battle.
His base came under mortar and machine gun attack five times every day. He was also personally involved in a firefight with the Taliban, fighting alongside Gurkha troops.
Brigadier Andrew Mackay, his commanding officer in Helmand, lavished praise on the work of the Prince in his 10-week tour of duty.
“He has shared the same risks, endured the same austerity and undergone the same moments of fears and euphoria that are part of conducting operations in this most complex of environments. A Forward Air Controller provides essential cover to those soldiers deployed on the ground. He controls the airspace, the aircraft that enter it and the release of any ordnance.
“It requires an individual of cool nerve, mental agility and an ability to make critical decisions in the heat of battle. I know from my own conversations with Second Lieutenant Wales that he has flourished in this most demanding of environments, relished the opportunity to serve his Regiment and his country and is deservedly immensely proud of his contribution. He has acquitted himself with distinction.”
Despite the risks Prince Harry is anxious to return to Afghanistan as he had completed only 10 weeks of his 14 week tour of duty.
One senior courtier said: “He is frustrated about coming back and leaving his friends behind. But he is realistic and understands the way of the world.”
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