High-profile British veterans have criticised the Duke of Sussex’s claim he had killed 25 Taliban soldiers while serving with the British army in Afghanistan and warned the high-profile admission could increase the risk to his personal security.
The retired army veteran Col Tim Collins, best known for delivering a rousing speech before the start of the Iraq war in 2003, said the prince’s kill-count talk was crass and “we don’t do notches on the rifle butt”.
Others said Harry had appeared wrongly 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: “The ones you killed were not chess pieces, they were humans; they had families who were waiting for their return. Among the killers of Afghans, not many have your decency to reveal their conscience and confess to their war crimes.”
The kill-count claim features in Harry’s autobiography, Spare, and comes from the Times’s translation of the Spanish edition of his book.
The prince recounts in his memoir his time as a gunner in an Apache attack helicopter while on his second tour in Afghanistan in 2012. It was possible to establish a kill count, the prince said, because he was able to watch gun-cam footage of every mission he flew on.
Harry writes that “in the era of Apaches and laptops” it was possible to establish “with exactness how many enemy combatants I had killed. And it seemed to me essential not to be afraid of that number. So my number is 25. It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me.”
A former British army commander in Afghanistan, retired Col Richard Kemp, said the comments may put the prince’s security at greater risk. Extremists who support the Taliban may now be “motivated to kill Harry” because of memories that have been “resurrected” by his comments, he told Sky News.