Prince Harry’s reportedly bold statement that he has killed Taliban fighters during his tour of duty in Afghanistan might have won him plaudits in Britain, where he is revered. But coming from a celebrity like him, it won’t help the cause of peace in Afghanistan. Not that his statement could make all the difference in a country where peacemaking with Taliban still remains a mirage, but it’s a plain fact that leaders in responsible positions can help peace by refraining from making mistakes that will ruffle feathers.
The 28-year-old Captain Wales, as he is called by his military colleagues, recently revealed in interviews conducted in Afghanistan he killed Taliban fighters on his latest mission as part of the crew on an Apache attack helicopter. The British newspapers had screaming headlines about Harry’s exploits in Afghanistan. “I’ve killed Taliban fighters, says Harry”, the Daily Telegraph said; “Harry on his call of duty: how I killed Taleban”, said The Times and “Harry: I have killed” (Daily Mail). But Taliban was quick to respond. A spokesman of the insurgent group called him insane and challenged his claims. “I think he has a mental problem, that’s why he is saying it is a game,” Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman. “These kind of people live like diplomats in Afghanistan, they can’t risk themselves by standing against the mujahideen.”
Harry has now completed two tours in one of Afghanistan’s roughest provinces. On a four-month deployment in the southern Helmand province, Harry flew on many missions as a co-pilot gunner with the trigger to rockets, missiles and cannons at his fingertips. What has riled insurgents is his comparison of killing militants with playing games. And coming from a prince, that is a rudely impolite statement. The prince could have talked about his other exploits, if he had any, to win public praise for his mission. “To describe the war in Afghanistan as a game demeans anyone — especially a prince, who is supposed to be made of better things,” the Taliban spokesman said.
Harry insisted that killing people was not the reason he wanted to become a helicopter pilot. However, while the British tabloids were generally full of praise for Harry’s war exploits, other commentators were more critical of his latest candid admissions.
Harry, third in line to the British throne, has put his life at risk with his confession and his words have also given ammunition to his enemies world over.
What raises serious concerns is not just that the Prince is boasting about his adventures in Afghanistan and killing people in the line of his duty, but the fact that this could very well strain ties between foreign troops and locals in Afghanistan, with even more dire consequences for the withdrawal process.