KABUL, Afghanistan — Insurgents using guns and rockets or
mortars launched an audacious attack on the largest NATO base in Helmand
Province shortly after midnight Saturday morning, killing two American service
members, according to a spokesman for the international forces here.
The base, Camp Bastion, is where Prince Harry is serving as a member of a
British helicopter unit. Prince Harry was not in any danger, said the spokesman,
Master Sgt. Bob Barko. It was not clear whether the attack was meant to be an
attempt on the prince’s life, Sergeant Barko said. The Taliban have vowed to
Camp Bastion is home to the largest number of British troops in Afghanistan,
while the neighboring Camp Leatherneck is a mainly American base. A spokesman
for the international forces said that the military did not yet have details on
the exact location of the attack.
Although rocket attacks on both bases occur periodically, the latest one appears
to have been far more serious, and possibly involved more assailants. Sergeant
Barko said that because of the early hour, it was “difficult to know much yet,”
though a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force confirmed on
Saturday that the two service members who were killed were United States
He described the attackers as using “indirect fire,” a term that can mean
rockets or mortars as well as small-arms fire.
The insurgents in Helmand, in southern Afghanistan, are overwhelmingly Taliban,
but the military in the early stages of its assessment was reluctant to say
definitively that Taliban insurgents were behind the attack.
On the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on Tuesday, Zabiullah Mujahid, a
spokesman for the Taliban, was quoted by British news organizations as saying
the insurgents would do everything in their power to eliminate Prince Harry, 27,
who is third in line for the British throne.
“We are using all our strength to get rid of him, either by killing or
kidnapping,” Reuters quoted Mr. Mujahid as saying.
In further remarks about the prince that appeared in jihadist media, Mr. Mujahid
urged the British to spend the money used to send Harry to Afghanistan on the
“The objective behind his coming is to deceive his people more, and in
Afghanistan, to give something of a morale boost to the defeated soldiers of his
country so they continue until the date of their fleeing to Britain, which
couldn’t do anything despite the presence of thousands of its soldiers,” he
said. “So what can it do through one soft prince?”
There have been news reports of internal British government discussions about
whether a majority of troops will stay through 2014 or whether there might be an
question of whether Prince Harry will be sent to Iraq, and whether he will
resign from the Army if he is not sent, was mired in confusion yesterday. The
Ministry of Defence said it was reviewing the issue of the Prince's deployment
to Iraq after a rise in attacks against British troops and threats by insurgents
to abduct him and cut off his ears.
According to one report, friends of the Prince - who is third in line to the
throne - have said he will quit the Army if he is not sent. The claim was
dismissed by the BBC's royal correspondent who said the friends had denied this
was the case and insisted that the Prince will continue to serve.
Tony Blair, meanwhile, told reporters that he would be delighted if his son
offered to serve in Iraq. This has caused a degree of puzzlement at the Ministry
of Defence as none of the Prime Minister's children are known to be in the armed
The controversy over the Prince's deployment surfaced yesterday with the news
that senior officers are reconsidering whether the Prince, a 2nd lieutenant,
should be sent to Iraq as this may make him a target.
In one of the bloodiest months for British forces in the country since the
invasion, 11 service personnel have been killed this April.
In Maysan province, where the Prince and other members of the Blues and Royals
are due to serve, two soldiers died last week when their reconnaissance vehicle
was hit by a roadside bomb.
One option would be for the Prince to go to Iraq but not undertake any combat
duty. However, in 2005 he said: "There is no way I am going to put myself
through Sandhurst and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are fighting
for their country.''
If the deployment does take place, the Prince will be the first member of the
Royal Family to serve in a war zone since the Duke of York flew helicopters
during the Falklands conflict 25 years ago. An MoD spokeswoman said yesterday:
"Prince Harry's deployment to Iraq is, as we have always said, under constant
"It is still our intent that Prince Harry will deploy as a troop leader.''
man of 22,
vigorous and enthusiastic,
is faced with the frustration
of all his
27 April 2007
he's available, he's qualified, and he's a prince. That means if Prince Harry
goes to fight in Iraq he'll be a target, a risk, a liability and a headache.
Prince Harry and the Army now find themselves in a no-win situation, and, let's
face it, that's not what soldiering is about.
Did nobody think of this when career plans were being laid? For the heir to the
throne to have two sons who've both decided to make the military their career
seems deliberately perverse. Neither will ever be able to fulfil their role as
officers in exactly the same way as their fellow soldiers. It's just not
possible. They are royal and privileged; they are pampered and favoured; they
are emblematic icons, while others are simply ordinary fellows trained in
warfare. As parental career guidance it rates as rock bottom.
Shakespeare knew all about kings at war. Throughout the history plays, a king
bearing arms is consistently the deliberate target of his enemies. As the great
sequence comes to an end, Richard III, cornered and screaming, "A horse, a
horse, my kingdom for a horse ..." is finally and ignominiously slaughtered,
bringing his dynastic line crashing down with him.
The death of a king is that momentous. When Henry V - known to his soldiery,
appropriately enough, as Harry of England - disguises himself and wanders his
camp as an ordinary soldier, he hears the truth at first hand: an ordinary
squaddie declares, "I would he were here alone. So should he be sure to be
ransomed and a many poor men's lives saved."
For all his well-meaning intentions to be just as any other soldier, Prince
Harry is different. His eagerness to serve in the front line, leading his men,
is honourable and impossible. Consider the range of differences that apply in
his case. Going out into the front line, Prince Harry can be assured of the very
best kit, fully served with the latest in protective equipment.
There will be no wretched phone calls home about the inadequacy of his stuff or
the need to supply his own boots. The vehicle he uses will be the best
protected, the most thoroughly serviced. The route it takes will be tracked, the
time of its return anticipated with relief by his superiors. There will be
commendations for those who see him through it all, and more than normal relief
when his term of duty comes to an end.
Were he to be wounded in action, the best of medical facilities will attend on
him and the subject of his injuries be a matter of national interest and
attention. Sneak photographs taken by the mobile phones of hospital orderlies
will be sold round the world before a public enquiry as to how such dastardly
behaviour could have been allowed. Should he need them, there is no question
that the best of surgeons will be available, and on his return he will not be
dumped in public hospital wards where other patients who disapprove of the Iraq
war can come and remonstrate with him.
Were he taken prisoner or hostage, the mantra "we do not negotiate with
terrorists" would be swiftly revised. Those responsible would have scored an
amazing international coup and could set their own agenda as to how it was
resolved. With such lavish options open to them, they would surely quarrel among
themselves, delaying and confusing the outcome.
Meanwhile, snatch squads of our own, possibly with aid from Mossad, would make
plans for dashing raids of heroic proportions, all of whose participants would
claim that, following recent precedents, they should be allowed to sell their
stories to the tabloids. Meanwhile Harry would return to a hero's welcome, and
the troops in Iraq would relax their vigilance, leaving themselves open to
instant opportunistic attacks.
This, as the military have now realised, is no way to fight a war. The
insurgents have realised that too, making it known that the Prince himself would
be the battleground.
Such declared targeting was not the case when his uncle Prince Andrew served as
a helicopter pilot in the Falklands war. That was an old-fashioned
confrontational fight between two armies. But Middle East wars are more elusive,
more insidious and, for serving royals, more deadly. The only possibility of
Prince Harry fulfilling his proper duty would have been for him to have gone in
secret, served anonymously and returned from duty before the whole thing became
known. Such is the double track of both royalty and celebrity that is currently
the Prince's lot in life, that that was never conceivable.
Now we have a young man of 22, vigorous and enthusiastic, faced with the
frustration of all his hopes. This is not what any family could wish for their
child. Given Prince Harry's freedom with his fists and with drink, it could well
result in further brawls and unhappiness.
Judging from blogs, the public is speaking out strongly in favour of his going
to Iraq: "It's what he signed up to"; "He's trained, let him serve"; "His
credibility as an officer is on the line." With only the occasional
traditionalist: "The Royal Family are the backbone of society in this country
... its time we saw sense, and kept Prince Harry safe."
So whatever the outcome - front line or desk job, resignation from the Army or
ham-strung career - opinions on whether he should go or not will be filling chat
shows and column inches for a good while yet.