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Harry may have to quit Afghanistan after web leaks news.

Byline: John Bingham

PRINCE Harry has spent the past 10 weeks fighting in Afghanistan fulfilling his lifelong dream of serving on the frontline, it can be reported today.

The 23-year-old Household Cavalry officer has been serving as a battlefield air controller and light tank commander in war-ravaged Helmand Province.

Details of his deployment can now be revealed after a news blackout deal broke down following reports on foreign websites.

The Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, said last night that he was taking advice on whether Harry will now have to be pulled out of Afghanistan as a result of the breach.

But he praised Harry as an "exemplary" young officer.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown added, "The whole of Britain will be proud of the outstanding service he is giving."

Despite being third in line to the throne, the Prince was able to play a full part in operations against the Taleban in Helmand.

During a posting to Garmsir, the southernmost part of the province under allied control, he was able to work within sight of enemy positions - just 500m from the Taleban frontline trenches.

He was free to go on patrol and mix with locals face to face safe in the knowledge that he would not be recognised.

His work as a "JTAC" (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) involved carrying out detailed aerial surveillance behind Taleban lines.

He even called in several bomb strikes on confirmed enemy bunker positions. In an interview just last week, details of which were originally not to be reported until the end of his tour, he admitted that on his return to the UK he could be a "top target" for homegrown jihadists sympathetic to the Taleban.

But he shrugged off fears for his safety, insisting he was proud to be able to finally serve his country and do the job he was trained for.

He added that he hoped he was making his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, proud.

Harry was bitterly disappointed last year when his planned deployment to Iraq in command of a troop of Scimitar light tanks had to be cancelled after a series of threats to his life emerged following publicity about his tour.

He considered leaving the Army but was given fresh hope by the chance to retrain as a JTAC - also known as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) - in order to go to Afghanistan as part of a battle-group centred on his own regiment the Household Cavalry.

This time the plan was cloaked in secrecy with only a close circle of friends and family informed before he finally deployed on December 14, two months after the rest of 52 Brigade - the current Helmand Task Force - arrived there.

Within the Ministry of Defence only around 15 people were told in advance, with even several top generals unaware. While the Queen, the Prince of Wales and Harry's brother, Prince William, were aware of where he was being sent, even close friends were kept in the dark.

On arrival in Afghanistan, Harry was sent to Forward Operating Base Dwyer, a remote desert base which was his battle-group headquarters at the time.

But within days he had secured permission to move to Garmsir, right on the frontline. He has since left Garmsir to work in another part of Helmand Province, details of which cannot be reported for security reasons.

An agreement was reached across the UK media, including all major newspapers and broadcasters, not to publicise details of his deployment for security reasons until he was safely home.

But the arrangement, agreed to prevent details reaching the Taleban and endangering Harry and his comrades, broke down yesterday after the news was carried on the influential US website the Drudge Report.

Earlier reports on an Australian lifestyle website, New Idea, in January and a reference on the German newspaper Berliner Kurier were largely ignored.

Gen Dannatt said yesterday, "I am very disappointed that foreign websites have decided to run this story without consulting us.

"This is in stark contrast to the highly responsible attitude that the whole of the UK print and broadcast media, along with a small number of overseas, who have entered into an understanding with us over the coverage of Prince Harry on operations."

He added, "What the last two months have shown is that it is perfectly possible for Prince Harry to be employed just the same as other Army officers of his rank and experience."


February 22, 2007 - The Ministry of Defence and Clarence House confirm that Prince Harry is to deploy to Iraq commanding a troop of four Scimitar light tanks. The prince is said to be "over the moon".

May 16, 2007 - Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt, announces a U-turn after intelligence of a number of "specific" threats from insurgents to Harry and those serving with him are picked up. Harry considers leaving the army. Speaking in December 2007 he says, "It was a case of: I very much feel like if I'm going to cause this much chaos to a lot of people then maybe I should bow out and not just for my own sake, for everyone else's sake."

Early summer 2007 - Household Cavalry Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Edward Smyth-Osbourne, who is forming a battle group for the winter deployment to Afghanistan, secures a place for Harry on a TACP (Tactical Air Control Party) training course.

Summer 2007 - Now known as Cornet Wales, he begins training as a JTAC (Joint Terminal Attack Controller) - also referred to as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) - at RAF Leeming near Northallerton in North Yorkshire. He is taught to control aircraft operating over a battle-space.

December 12, 2007 - General Dannatt makes the final decision to deploy the prince to Helmand Province, joining 52 Brigade. He is to work as part of a two-man TACP team at Forward Operating Base Dwyer in the south of Helmand. He is to work in Lt Col Smyth-Osbourne's battle group HQ.

December 14, 2007 - Harry flies out after a news blackout has been agreed between the main UK media outlets, Clarence House and the MoD. He arrives at Kandahar Airfield, the main coalition hub in southern Afghanistan. After brief in-theatre training he catches a flight directly to Fob Dwyer. He takes up his place in the TACP working under the direct command of battle group Battery Commander Major Andrew Dimmock of the Royal Artillery.

Late December 2007 - Harry secures a transfer to Forward Operating Base Delhi in Garmsir and joins an attachment of Gurkhas under the command of Major Mark Milford, Officer Commanding B Company of the 1st Battalion, the Royal Gurkha Rifles. He is able to experience front line life, operating as a JTAC just 500 metres from Taleban positions. He says, "This is what it is all about, what it's all about is being here with the guys rather than being in a room with a bunch of officers. ...I think this is about as normal as I'm ever going to get."

December 31 - Harry oversees his first air strike. Two US F15 jets drop three 500lb bombs on a bunker system behind Taleban lines in which up to 15 enemy fighters have been positively identified from the air.

Early January 2008 - The prince spends a week living on JTAC Hill, a 19th century British fort now used as an observation point over "no man's land" on the southern front line. Endures snow as well as regular attacks from rocket propelled grenades and small arms fire.


BLACKOUT BLOWN Prince Harry sits with Gurkha soldiers after firing a machine gun from the observation post on JTAC Hill, in Helmand Province. An American website revealed his frontline activity
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Feb 29, 2008
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