LONDON – After several days of public nail biting and second thoughts, it’s official: Prince Harry will be deployed to Iraq this month.
Britain’s senior army commander said Monday that he had decided to go ahead with the first royal assignment to active combat since the Falklands War in 1982 but was prepared to keep the matter open for review.
“The decision has been taken he will deploy,” Gen. Richard Dannatt, the army chief of staff, told the British Broadcasting Corp.
Harry, 22, third in line to the British throne and a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, has expressed his willingness to deploy with his regiment, the Blues and Royals, in southern Iraq.
But the past month has seen an upsurge in attacks on British forces in the south, with 11 killed.
More worrying for many, several Iraqi militants have made it clear they are looking forward to Harry’s presence.
“We are awaiting the arrival of the young, handsome, spoilt prince with baited breath, and we confidently expect he will come out into the open on the battlefield,” Abu Zaid, commander of the Malik Ibn al-Ashtar Brigade of the Shiite al-Mahdi militia, told the Observer in Iraq.
“We will be generous with him. For he will return to his grandmother (the Queen) but without ears,” said Zaid.
A Sunni insurgent leader told the newspaper that his group had people “planted” inside British military bases who were under orders to track Harry’s movements.