Prince Harry on Afghanistan

Article published in The Daily Express, 7 January 2023. © Richard Kemp

Prince Harry has made much of his security concerns but publicly announcing he personally killed 25 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan is like shooting himself in the foot. It will re-kindle jihadist animosity against him and incite some who want to take revenge.

His accusation that the British Army trains its soldiers to see their enemies as ‘chess pieces’ to be swept off the board, in other words dehumanising them, will also feed into jihadist propaganda, potentially encouraging wider attacks within the UK.

It will also be seized on by lawyers who want to prosecute British soldiers on allegations of unlawful killing and ill-treatment of enemy prisoners because it paints a picture of a military that indoctrinates its troops to act against the Geneva conventions that require enemy dead, wounded or captured to be treated with respect.

Harry’s description of how British soldiers are conditioned for combat is the opposite of the truth. They are trained to give enemy dead a decent burial, to handle prisoners humanely and to treat the wounded as they would treat their own. There are plenty of examples of British wounded finding themselves in the same field hospital ward as injured Afghan captives.

Of course when their blood is up, some soldiers act differently as is the nature of war, but that is not because of their training as Harry falsely suggests.

He also makes a play of his own humanity, writing that he made it his mission ‘never go to bed with any doubt whether I had done the right thing … whether I had shot at Taliban and only Taliban, without civilians in the vicinity. I wanted to return to Great Britain with all my limbs, but more than that I wanted to get home with my conscience intact.’

The implication is that was unique to him. It is not, every soldier I ever served with feels the same and there are many cases of British soldiers, in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places, risking and sometimes losing their own lives to ensure innocent civilians were not killed.

Prince Harry fought with bravery and distinction on two tours in Afghanistan, and went on the champion the wounded including through the Invictus games. The nation should be grateful for his service, but many serving and former soldiers will see his latest observations on their own service and ethos as a stab in the back.

Image: Sgt Russ Nolan RLC, Defence Imagery