March 1, 2008 in Nation/World

Prince leaving Afghanistan

Jill Lawless Associated Press
 

LONDON – Prince Harry wanted to be “one of the lads,” an ordinary soldier sharing risk and hardship with his men. For 10 weeks, he got his wish – and that may be enough to advance his career in the military.

British defense chiefs announced Friday they were withdrawing him immediately from the combat zone in Afghanistan after his deployment, once a closely guarded secret, became public.

Still, Harry’s hopes of a long-term military career should still be boosted by his time at war – and by the assessment of his commander, Brig. Andrew Mackey, that the prince “acquitted himself with distinction.”

Harry, third in line to the throne, has spoken of his desire to be an ordinary soldier. Unlike his older brother, William, who is also in the army but whose future military role will be largely ceremonial, Harry, 23, sees the military as a career.

In a 2006 interview, he said he would not have gone through the rigors of officer training at Sandhurst military academy only to “sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.”

The prince’s deployment had gone undisclosed under an agreement between the Ministry of Defense and major news organizations designed to protect Harry and his fellow soldiers.

When the news was posted on the Drudge Report Web site on Thursday, the dam burst.

The Ministry of Defense said Friday that worldwide media coverage of Harry’s posting could have risked his and his colleagues’ safety had the prince been allowed to stay in Afghanistan. It said Harry had been due to return “in a matter of weeks” before the news broke.

Media outlets were granted a series of interviews and allowed to take photos and video images of the prince, all to be distributed on a pool basis and used on his return. That material was released after the story leaked out.

Society of Editors director Bob Satchwell, who helped broker the media deal, said the arrangement should not be looked at as precedent-setting. “But on the other hand, you should never say never,” he said. “It worked for a significant time, and it allowed Prince Harry to be deployed.”

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