Why has the MOD confirmed that Prince Harry is in Afghanistan?
Prince Harry has just arrived in Afghanistan, serving as an Apache pilot, more than a decade after coalition forces first entered the country after the events of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The main focus of the mission is to withdraw the remaining troops left in the country within the next two years, in the hope that the Afghanistan security force will be able to take control. However, many have wondered why the government has confirmed that Harry is in the country, as this will almost certainly lead to more Apache’s being targeted.
The last time Harry was in the country, serving as a forward air controller, the Army tried to keep his deployment a secret, in case he became a target. However, news got out, due to a breakdown of international blackout agreements, with the story posted on the US-based Drudge Report. 10 weeks into his four-month deployment, the Army then decided to withdraw him, mainly due to the fact that it would have led to increased risk for other soldiers, with the news being widely reported in the media. This time though, the risk hasn’t changed, and the Army have decided to report the news itself.
I believe that this is partly because during his previous deployment, the Army would have been functioning with the mindset that the plans were secret, with everybody following plans as normal. However, when the news was suddenly released, they might not have had plans that accounted for the fact that the Taliban would know about his operation. His fellow comrades would also not be prepared for the additional risk. This time however, in confirming the deployment as it is beginning, the Army can manage the risk and have plans in place accounting for news. Operations or plans might slightly change, allowing for Harry to serve safely. There will be no sudden rush from the Taliban, as the Army can now plan and expect for that. It’s also likely that the Army feel that he can serve safely, and since the news would be very hard to keep under wraps in the world of the Internet, have chosen to confirm it straight away and to avoid the same situation as last time.
The job roles are also very different, with Harry serving in a forward operating base as an infantry soldier during his last tour. There were fears that insurgents would concentrate all their efforts on this target, as it would be a massive coup, putting others at risk. This time however, he is operating from Camp Bastion, the largest British base, making it very difficult for the Taliban to target him directly. The Taliban might still target Apache helicopters more frequently, trying to get the prized target, but for the most part, the Apache’s have been very successful in the region, and it is unlikely that the Taliban will able to be successful. Most deaths in the country come from the trainee Afghan forces turning their weapons on the NATO troops, not from action with enemy forces. Therefore, he and his comrades are probably at no extra risk than they would be if the Prince was not serving there.
This time the Ministry of Defence has taken a different route with Prince Harry’s deployment, choosing to confirm it straight away, rather than try a media blackout. This is likely because a media blackout would likely fail, just like it did last time, so it’s better to plan for this right from the beginning. Also, his role is very different, with a lower risk to both himself and his fellow soldiers, with the Apache very successful. Thus, although this news could lead to an increase in attacks on Apache’s, the risk can be managed and it is unlikely to lead to any additional problems.