The Taliban’s hunt for Prince Harry: A guide
The British royal embarks on a four-month tour as a helicopter gunner, and insurgents waste little time before vowing to capture or kill him
Prince Harry has gone “from playing games of strip pool and cavorting with Olympic stars to receiving death threats,” says Daniel Politi at Slate. Such is the life of a British royal — or at least Prince Harry, who touched down in Afghanistan’s volatile Helmand province late last week for a four-month tour manning the guns in an Apache attack helicopter. On Monday, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Harry is now one of the group’s top targets, telling Reuters, “We are using all our strength to get rid of him, either by killing or kidnapping…. We have informed our commanders in Helmand to do whatever they can to eliminate him.” How serious of a threat is this? Here, a brief look at the Taliban’s hunt for Prince Harry:
Why is the Taliban so focused on Prince Harry?
As third in line to the British crown, he really is, as the Taliban says, a “high-value target.” Setting up his capture or death as a goal also helps motivate the insurgents. So really, the only surprise is that it took “three days after he touched down” for the Taliban to issue its threat, says Adam Martin at The Atlantic Wire.
Why isn’t it a secret that Harry is in Helmand?
After trying to keep his deployment to Afghanistan a secret in 2008 — and failing, after a news blackout on his mission fell apart — the British military decided against trying to keep this tour under wraps. Part of the calculus is that in 2008, Capt. Wales (as he is called in the army) was an on-ground air controller and this time he’s flying attack helicopters, which is considered safer. “Not one Apache helicopter has been lost in the war thus far,” notes Tom Sykes at The Daily Beast. And when Harry is not flying missions, he’ll be “at the heavily fortified Camp Bastion.”
Is Harry engaging in combat missions?
Not yet. But after a week of supplemental training and orientation, he is expected to act as a co-pilot/gunner against Taliban insurgents. In fact, Mujahid cited Harry’s role in the Taliban’s “kill notice” against him. “We will try to arrest him,” Mujahid said. “Because he is an Apache helicopter pilot, he will target us more. If we are not able to arrest him we will target him.” Obviously, says The Daily Beast’s Sykes. “Isn’t that kinda the whole point of war? To kill and capture the other guy?”
How much danger is Harry in?
NATO doesn’t seem worried. This is “not a matter of concern,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday. “We do everything we can to protect all our troops deployed to Afghanistan whatever might be their personal background.” If that seems inadequate for the “serious threat” made against Harry, its worth remembering that this is “the kind of thing the Taliban says all the time,” says The Atlantic Wire’s Martin. “I’m sure Harry’s very well protected,” says Adriana Velez at The Stir, though I hope the Taliban “doesn’t hurt any other non-royal troops in their attempt to nab Harry.” But even if he were in harm’s way just like any other grunt, “if the Queen herself can’t scare Harry, he’s certainly not going to be intimidated by a rag-tag band of terrorists.”
Sources: Atlantic Wire, Daily Beast, Daily Mail, The Frisky, Reuters, Slate, The Stir