Army veterans criticise Prince Harry’s claim he killed 25 Taliban in Afghanistan | Prince Harry
High-profile British veterans have criticized the Duke of Sussex’s claim that he killed 25 Taliban soldiers while serving with the British Army in Afghanistan and warned that the high-profile admission could increase the risk to his personal safety.
Retired army veteran Col Tim Collins, best known for giving a rousing speech before the start of the Iraq war in 2003, said the prince’s death count speech was strange and “we don’t cut corners in the butt of the rifle”.
Others said Harry had wrongly appeared to dehumanise the insurgents by describing them as “chess pieces removed from the board”, while the Taliban accused the prince of committing war crimes on his tour a decade ago.
Anas Haqqani, an influential member of the Afghan government, said: “Those you killed were not the shah, they were people; they had families waiting for their return. Among the killers of Afghans, not many have the dignity to reveal their conscience and admit their war crimes.”
The kill count claim appears in Harry’s autobiography, Spare, and comes from the Times translation of the Spanish edition of his book.
The prince recounts in his memoirs his time as a gunner in an Apache attack helicopter while on his second tour in Afghanistan in 2012. It was possible to determine a kill count, the prince said, because he was able to looked at the gun camera footage. every mission he flew.
Harry writes that “in the age of Apaches and laptops” it was possible to determine “precisely how many enemy fighters I had killed. And I found it essential not to be afraid of that number. So my number is 25. It is not a number that fills me with pleasure, but does not even embarrass me.”
The prince later admitted that he had dehumanized those he had shot in battle: “When I found myself immersed in the heat and confusion of the fighting, I did not think of the 25 as human. They were chess pieces removed from the board. Bad people are eliminated before they kill good people.”
Collins, in an interview with Forces News, took issue with Harry’s comments. “Among his claims is a claim that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan. You don’t act like that in the army; it is not as we think. He left his arm down badly. We do not make cuts in the rifle butt. We never did.”
The ex-soldier accused Harry of engaging in “a tragic scam to make money to fund a lifestyle he can’t afford”, which, in a barely-concealed blurt from his wife Meghan, it was something that “someone else chose”.
Other Afghanistan veterans questioned how certain Harry could be of how many people he had killed. One ex-para said: “I’ve never heard anyone talk about killing counts, it’s pointless and frankly appalling. Taking a life is the most serious thing you can ever do in surgery, serious people don’t think of it as a game of moving some books.”
While it’s not uncommon for soldiers to look at gun camera footage to analyze how the mission was conducted, the Afghan veteran added, “You can’t always tell who’s been killed or wounded. No one is going to enter a flattened building to check.”
A former British army commander in Afghanistan, retired Colonel Richard Kemp, said the comments could put the prince’s safety at greater risk. Extremists who support the Taliban may now be “motivated to kill Harry” because of memories that have been “rekindled” by his comments, he told Sky News.
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Harry is suing the UK government over a decision to withdraw taxpayer-funded royal protection for him and his family after he steps down from royal duties in 2020. At one point in the legal battle, his lawyers said the prince “doesn’t feel safe”. when he is visiting Great Britain, after a series of threats and incidents, including from right-wing extremists.
There was dismay at the comments from some British Muslims, including those who have publicly supported Harry and Meghan in the past but continued their support, at least for him.
Zillur Rahman, a lawyer who specializes in defamation, said last year that the “false and offhand” articles written about the couple were “exactly” what the Muslim community has experienced. But of Harry’s comments about the killing of 25 people, he said: “We have seen a focus on a number of killings in Afghanistan, which in some cases have involved innocent civilians. I don’t know who the targets were in Harry’s case, but they certainly seem unpleasant to me.
“It may be that when he was in the military, that was his life, and I would hope that he would have moved on and changed his views, but if that was what the military was instilling in its personnel and how were they being educated to see others, then it should be examined. Is this the mindset of the army and does it explain why some atrocities were committed?”
A Ministry of Defense spokesman said the military would not discuss Harry’s kill count claim: “We do not comment on operational details for security reasons.”
British forces engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014 and training efforts thereafter, before the west finally withdrew in chaotic circumstances in the summer of 2021. The Taliban took control in August of that year, before the final withdrawal was completed.