Retired colonel and Taliban leader join criticism over Harry killing revelations

The duke faces an intense backlash after writing about his time in Afghanistan in his controversial memoir, Spare.

Rebecca Speare-Cole
Friday 06 January 2023 15:41 GMT
The Duke of Sussex, or Captain Wales as he was known in the Army, making his pre-flight checks at Camp Bastion (PA)
The Duke of Sussex, or Captain Wales as he was known in the Army, making his pre-flight checks at Camp Bastion (PA) (PA Wire)

A retired British Army colonel, a senior Taliban leader and a former Defence Secretary are among those criticising the Duke of Sussex over disclosures that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan.

Colonel Tim Collins, known for a pre-battle speech he made in Iraq, said Harry has now turned against his “other family, the military”.

Anas Haqqani, Taliban leader in Afghanistan, condemned the duke for describing those he killed as “chess players”, but added that not many who killed Afghans “have your decency to reveal their conscience and confess to their war crimes”.

Lord Hutton, former defence secretary, said Harry making the disclosures “diminishes him” and is a “very serious mistake”.

General Sir Richard Barrons, former commander of Joint Forces Command, said “you don’t talk about these things”.

Lord Darroch, former national security adviser, said he “would have advised against” Harry revealing those details, while former commando Ben McBean told the prince to “shut up”.

It comes as the duke faces an intense backlash after writing about his time in Afghanistan in his controversial memoir, Spare.

Harry wrote that flying six missions during his second tour of duty on the front line in 2012 to 2013 resulted in “the taking of human lives”, of which he was neither proud nor ashamed.

The Telegraph, which obtained a Spanish language copy of the memoir from a bookshop in Spain, reports that Harry said he did not think of those he killed as people, but instead as “chess pieces” that had been taken off the board.

“So, my number is 25. It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but nor does it embarrass me,” he wrote.

But Col Collins criticised Harry for making the disclosure, calling it “a tragic money-making scam”.

He told Forces News on Friday: “Amongst his assertions is a claim that he killed 25 people in Afghanistan.

“That’s not how you behave in the Army; it’s not how we think.”

Col Collins later added: “Harry has now turned against the other family, the military, that once embraced him, having trashed his birth family.”

He also accused Harry of taking a path that is “alien” to those in the UK and the Commonwealth, adding that the duke is “pursuing US identity politics and casting slurs or racism around where none exists”.

“I wonder whose path he has chosen? In the end I see only disappointment and misery in his pursuit of riches he does not need and his rejection of family and comradely love that he badly needs,” he said.

Mr Haqqani tweeted on Friday: “Mr. Harry! The ones you killed were not chess pieces, they were humans; they had families who were waiting for their return.

“Among the killers of Afghans, not many have your decency to reveal their conscience and confess to their war crimes.

“The truth is what you’ve said; Our innocent people were chess pieces to your soldiers, military and political leaders. Still, you were defeated in that “game” of white & black “square”.

“I don’t expect that the (International Criminal Court) will summon you or the human rights activists will condemn you, because they are deaf and blind for you. But hopefully these atrocities will be remembered in the history of humanity.”

Lord Hutton told LBC: “It’s absolutely not the right thing for anyone to be saying and I’m sure he now bitterly regrets saying that.

“I think it diminishes him and I think it’s not what we expect from someone who has held the positions of authority and responsibility that he has previously occupied. I think it’s a very serious mistake on his part.”

He later added: “It just grates horribly – I think it’s just inappropriate and wrong, and there’s a sense of bravado about it, which I think most people who have served in the armed forces will recoil from. It’s just not what should be said, it’s just wrong, on every level.”

General Sir Richard Barrons also told LBC: “This is clearly a very toxic matter for the royal family, my view is that you don’t talk about these things, these are things that happen on the battlefield – and there’s no great advantage in saying anything public.”

Meanwhile, Lord Darroch told Sky News that he “slightly” shared the security concerns military experts have raised after Harry’s comments.

“You have to respect all of those who fought in Afghanistan,” he said.

“I went there a number of times when I was national security adviser. It’s a really tough environment, it was a really dangerous war, we lost more than 500 British servicemen.

“I respect and appreciate all those who fought there.

“Personally if I’d been advising the prince, I would have advised against the kind of detail that he goes into there.

“But it’s out there now, and I believe it was a just war, and therefore what he has written about how he justified to himself what he was doing, I can understand and appreciate that.

“In terms of the detail, I personally wouldn’t have gone there, but it’s done now.”

Mr McBean, who lost an arm and a leg serving with the Royal Marines in Afghanistan in 2008, and was described by Harry as a “real hero” after they met at several events, tweeted: “Love you #PrinceHarry but you need to shut up!

“Makes you wonder the people he’s hanging around with.

“If it was good people somebody by now would have told him to stop.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said they do not comment on operational details for “security reasons”.

Harry was criticised in early 2013 at the end of his tour when he disclosed that he had killed.

The then 28-year-old told the media that he took the enemy “out of the game” and soldiers “take a life to save a life”.

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