- Andre Rodin-Paul
- BBC News
A retired British military commander accused Prince Harry of having “turned against his second family,” that is, the army, after he “abandoned the family into which he was born.”
In his memoirs, the Duke of Sussex described the killing of 25 Taliban fighters as “taking the pieces off the board”.
“This is not our pattern of behavior in the Army,” said former Colonel Tim Collins.
Prince Harry gave details of his time as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan in his memoirs, called “Spear”.
The BBC obtained a copy of it after it was recently put on sale in Spain.
In his memoirs, the prince reveals for the first time that he killed 25 enemy fighters – which is entirely possible after two missions in Afghanistan’s Helmand region.
“It’s not a number that pleases me, but it doesn’t embarrass me,” he said.
“When I got caught up in the heat and confusion of battle, I didn’t think of these as 25 people. You can’t kill people if you look at them as people.”
“In fact, you can’t hurt people if you look at them as people. They were chess pieces removed from the board, and the bad guys were finished before they killed the good guys.”
Responding to the prince’s comments, a senior Taliban commander, Anas Haqqani, tweeted: “Mr. Harry! Those you killed weren’t chess pieces, they were human beings, and they had families waiting for them to come back.”
“I don’t expect that (the International Criminal Court) will summon you or that human rights activists will condemn your act, because they are deaf and blind to you,” he added.
Speaking to Forsys News, Retired Commander Collins condemned the book as “a tragic money-making scam”.
Referring to Prince Harry’s revelations that he had killed 25 enemy combatants, Colonel Collins said: “This is not our pattern of behavior in the military, and we don’t think that way.”
“Prince Harry has now turned against his second family, the military, who once embraced him after abandoning the family he was born into,” said the retired colonel, best known for an impassioned speech he gave to his troops on the eve of the war in Iraq.
He accused Prince Harry of choosing a “strange” path and “pursuing riches he does not need.” “In the end, I see nothing but disappointment and misery in his pursuit of riches he does not need and his rejection of family and comradely love that he so desperately needs,” he added.
Colonel Kemp, who was previously sent to Kabul in 2003 to take command of the forces in Afghanistan, said the Taliban fighters who were killed were bad people and he had no problem with Prince Harry revealing the number of those he killed, but he objected to the way Harry portrayed the movement. The Taliban is as if the army regards their insurgents as “lesser human beings and chess pieces to be crushed.”
He added that some soldiers did indeed talk about the people they had killed or wounded in individual sessions, sometimes “as a way of decompressing almost after a period of fighting”.
On describing the killed Taliban fighters as chess pieces, Colonel Kemp said that such comments could give “propaganda to the enemy.”
He added that such statements may have undermined Prince Harry’s security and could provoke people to retaliate.
“They are always looking to radicalize people and then recruit them, and we have already seen how the Taliban benefit from that,” he said.
Prince Harry briefly served as a forward air controller on the ground in Afghanistan spotting strikes and airstrikes, before flying Apache helicopters on his second long mission.
The United States and its NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 to overthrow the rule of the Taliban, which they said harbored Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda figures linked to the September 11 attacks.
Adam Holloway, the Conservative MP for Gravesham, who fought in Iraq with the British army, wrote in the Spectator newspaper that many soldiers thought it was inappropriate to announce the death toll.
“It’s not about the professional rules of the military. It’s about decency and respect for the lives we take,” he said.
As for Officer Ben McBain, who lost an arm and a leg while serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan and whom Prince Harry described as a hero after they met on several occasions, he said the prince should “shut up”.
He wrote on Twitter, “I love you #Prince Harry, but you have to shut up! This makes you wonder about the people he is in contact with.”
“If they were good, it would be one of them. He told him to stop,” he added.
Another soldier, who is still on duty, told the BBC that Harry’s comments were “very unbecoming of a female soldier”.
The soldier, who has had several tours in Afghanistan, said it would be difficult for him to know how many “killings” he was directly involved in – without going back to all the patrol reports identified at the time. Many people are shooting in roughly the same direction and this will make it difficult to know who did the killing as well.
Like many military personnel, he said he was not interested in following up on the number. Often, those who write the books seem to care more about their kill stats.
While serving as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan, Harry had better vision in the cockpit in military operations than most close combat personnel using sensors and monitors.
He could also see the effect of his cannon and missiles – although dust would obscure close-up vision for his fellow fighters up close on the ground, and he would be able to review footage from the cockpit. But it is not always possible to count the bodies on the ground or to distinguish between the wounded and the dead.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he would not comment on the prince’s comments about the number of those killed, but added that he was “extremely grateful to our armed forces”.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Defense said in response to a question about the number of people killed by the prince, “We do not comment on operational details for security reasons.”