Prince Harry has confirmed that he did fire on and kill insurgents in Afghanistan, twice saying he had to "take a life to save a life" in an interview with the BBC.
Harry went on to compare warfare to a video game, leading a Taliban commander to brand him a 'coward' who had 'demeaned' himself with the comments and didn't understand the nature of the war in Afghanistan. The 28-year-old Prince’s remarks, which have been met with a combination of jingoistic approval and shocked dismay by observers today, were made to journalists in Afghanistan but were not broadcast until last night after he had left the country for a 'decompression' stop in Cyprus where he will be given four cans of lager.
The interview came after a four-month tour of duty flying Apache helicopters, with news media agreeing not to publish Captain Wales’s comments until today, now he has left the country, under the terms of a media agreement.
He was asked: "You are the man with the trigger in your hand, and if called upon, you will fire, and presumably you have and you will kill the enemy?"
The prince, who was recently accused by an al-Quaeda commander of being a 'jackal' killing innocents, responded: "Yeah, so lots of people have. The squadron's been out here. Everyone's fired a certain amount. Probably a little bit more than this time last year, to a certain extent, but that's just the way that it’s balanced out. Mainly due to weather, well whatever the reasons, I don't know.
"We fire when we have to, take a life to save a life, but essentially we're more of a deterrent than anything else."
Asked again about his role in control of the weapons systems, he repeated the line: “When you fire a missile whole floor vibrates, when you fire a cannon the whole helicopter shudders a bit. Take a life to save a life, that’s what we revolve around I suppose.”
However he insisted killing people was not what motivated him to become an attack helicopter pilot.
“It’s not the reason I decided to do this job,” he said. “The reason to do this job was to get back out here and carry on with a job.”
He said that he would have rather been deployed in a ground unit with his regiment, and apologized if that made him sound ‘a bit spoilt’.
The Prince said he found ‘flying easier than walking’ but conceded that he was ‘useless’ at written exams.
The Prince compared being in charge of the Apache’s weapons systems to playing ‘Xbox or Playstation’. The Taliban have said the comments comparing war to a game 'demean' Harry.
Speaking about his brother William, he said: “Obviously he'd love to be out here and I don't see why to be honest with you, I don't see why he couldn't.... no-one knows he's in the cockpit…Yes, he'd get shot at but, you know, if the guys who are doing the same job as us are being shot at on the ground, I don't think there's anything wrong with us being shot at as well.
“People back home have issues with that, but we're not special - the guys out there are. Simple as that.”
He was also asked about the naked pictures taken of him in Las Vegas: “I let myself down and I let my family down. It was probably a classic example of me probably being too much Army and not enough prince. But at the end of the day I was in a private area and there should have been a certain amount of privacy that one should expect… The papers knew I was going out to Afghanistan so the way I was treated from them I don’t think was acceptable.”
He spoke about his frustration with the media saying: “My father always says, ‘Don’t read it, its all rubbish.' But of course I read it. I want to know what’s being said about me. I don’t think there is such a thing as a private life any more…every phone has a camera on it…you can’t move an inch without someone judging you. I never wanted you guys (the media) to be out here but there was a deal, that’s the only reason you are out here.”
Speaking about Kate’s pregnancy he said: “I’m thrilled for both of them, it’s about time.”
On his own personal life, he said: “I don’t think you can ever be urged to settle down. If you find the right person and everything feels right, it takes time. Me and my brother, ain’t ever going to find someone that would jump into the position.”
Asked if there was ‘anyone waiting’ for him at home, Harry declined to comment.
He also described how he juggled his different roles in life.
"You've got to be able to flick the switch all the time.
"I think I said a while back there's three 'me's, as it were. One in the army, one socially - my own private time - and one sort of with the family and stuff like that.
"So, you know, there is a switch and I flick it when necessary. And I like to think it's measured and balanced... Army comes first - it is my work at the end of the day. No one back home get sto see the work I do. Its very easy to completely forget about who I am in the army. Everyone’s wearing the same uniform. I enjoy my job its as simple as that."
Sixty years and hardly a slip.