British royal on Afghan tour

News of Prince Harry's deployment to Helmand province leaked by a US website.

    Harry's deployment was kept a secret to reduce
    the risk to him and his regiment [Reuters]

    Most of the 7,800 British troops in Afghanistan are based in Helmand, a key battleground for the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters engaged in bloody battles with Nato-led forces.


    The government imposed a news blackout on Harry's deployment under a pool agreement with major news organisations in Britain to reduce the risk to him and his unit.


    "I got here on Christmas Eve and going from bullet magnet to anti-bullet magnet, most of the guys were pretty bummed that I was here because nothing was happening for the first few days that I was here but things are picking up again now because it's obviously quite boring when nothing is happening," Harry is quoted as saying in Afghanistan.


    Next move


    Following the leak, British military officials are now considering where to move Harry who has served 10 weeks of what is usually a six-month Afghan tour.


    "I will take advice from the operational commanders about whether his deployment can continue," General Richard Dannatt, head of the army, said. 


    Harry threatened to quit the army if he
    was not sent to the field [Reuters]

    Describing Harry's performance in southern Afghanistan as exemplary, Dannatt said: "He has been fully involved in operations and has run the same risks as everyone else in his battle group."


    Video extracts showed Harry with his red hair caked in dust, dressed in camouflage fatigues patrolling arid and dusty terrain, calling in air support, firing a machine gun and patrolling the streets of Garmsir, the southernmost part of the province and just 500 metres from Taliban trenches.


    Harry has since left Garmsir, and details of his current whereabouts are kept secret.


    In the interview, Harry spoke about going without showers for days, eating corned beef and hash, drinking non-alcoholic drinks and escaping from the relentless paparazzi in London.


    "It's bizarre," he said. "I'm out here now, haven't really had a shower for four days, haven't washed my clothes for a week and everything seems completely normal ... It's nice just to be here with all the guys and just mucking in as one of the lads."


    Prince Andrew, Harry's uncle, was the last British royal to see major combat when he flew helicopters in the Falklands war.


    Sandhurst trained


    Harry trained at Sandhurst military academy, and was supposed to be deployed to Iraq with his Blues and Royals regiment in May.


    But the plan was scrapped after Iraqi anti-government groups posted threats in internet chat rooms that he will not return alive.


    Harry, who wanted to quit the army if he was not given the chance to see combat, said Queen Elizabeth II, his grandmother, gave him the news of his Afghan tour.


    "She told me I'm off to Afghanistan so that was the way it was supposed to be," he said in an interview in Afghanistan, his hair coated with dust and his face in stubble.


    "She was very 'pro' me going then so I think she's relieved that I get the chance to do what I want to do."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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