LONDON: Prince Harry’s remarks about killing 25 Taliban fighters while serving in the UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan have damaged his reputation, a former British commander has told the BBC.
Retired Col. Richard Kemp described Harry’s statement — that the fighters were “chess pieces removed from the board” — as “ill-judged” and “misleading.”
The prince’s remarks on his period as a helicopter pilot in Afghanistan came as part of his memoir “Spare” ahead of the book’s release.
He said: “It wasn’t a statistic that filled me with pride but nor did it leave me ashamed. When I found myself plunged in the heat and confusion of combat, I didn’t think of those 25 as people.
“They were chess pieces removed from the board. Bad people eliminated before they could kill good people.”
Kemp criticized Harry’s summary of the UK Armed Forces’ attitude toward enemy combatants, saying: “I think he’s wrong when he says in his book that insurgents were seen just as being virtually unhuman — subhuman perhaps — just as chess pieces to be knocked over. That’s not the case at all. And it’s not the way the British Army trains people as he claims.
“I think that sort of comment that doesn’t reflect reality, is misleading and potentially valuable to those people who wish the British forces and British government harm, so I think it was an error of judgment.
“It inflames old feelings of revenge that might have been forgotten about ... no doubt about it there are people in the world today who already would have seen this and will be thinking about getting him back.”
MP Adam Holloway, who served with the British Army during the Iraq War, said Harry’s comments broke a longtime military rule to avoid revealing personal kill counts. He added: “It’s not about macho codes. It’s about decency and respect for the lives you have taken.”
A serving soldier told the BBC that the prince’s comments were “very unsoldier-like.”
A UK Ministry of Defence spokesperson, when asked for comment by the BBC on Harry’s remarks, said: “We do not comment on operational details for security reasons.”