Prince Harry Finds Anonymity in Afghanistan The Drudge Report broke a news blackout that had been in effect for two and a half months about Prince Harry's deployment to Afghanistan. Michael Evans, defense editor for the Times of London, talks to Renee Montagne about why the British media had kept his deployment a secret.
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Prince Harry Finds Anonymity in Afghanistan

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Prince Harry Finds Anonymity in Afghanistan

Prince Harry Finds Anonymity in Afghanistan

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It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.

The young man the British media has called the bullet magnet is on the front lines in Afghanistan. Britain's Prince Harry was deployed on a stealth combat tour ten weeks ago.

Prince HARRY (Britain): No one really knows where I am, and I prefer to keep it that way for the meantime until I get back in one piece. Then I can tell them where. For the moment, I think they think that I'm tucked away and wrapped up in cotton wool.

MONTAGNE: Well, not anymore now that the Drudge Report Web site broke a news blackout on the prince's whereabouts. And yesterday Britain's Ministry of Defense confirmed it. Prince Harry is at a forward operating base in one of Afghanistan's most dangerous places.

Michael Evans is defense editor for the Times of London and joins us to talk about this.

Good morning.

Mr. MICHAEL EVANS (Defense editor, Times of London): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: Now, how did it happen that the British media, which may well be the world's most freewheeling, intrusive and feistiest news media, kept this secret for two and a half months?

Mr. EVANS: Uh, it was a pretty unique arrangement. I think what happened was that the head of the army in May last year decided that he would not allow Prince Harry to go to Iraq, as it was at that stage, or on any sort of operational mission overseas because of the potential danger that he would face. I mean, obviously all soldiers face danger, but it was felt that he would be specifically targeted.

But Prince Harry was very, very keen to make use of the training that he'd had, and he really, really did want to go abroad, either to Iraq or Afghanistan. And eventually General Richard Dannert decided that it would be safe for him to go to Afghanistan, but only if he could get a deal with the British media. We all agreed to it.

MONTAGNE: This area in Southern Afghanistan, Helmand Province, where the prince, it's quite dangerous and there are kidnappings of foreigners. Now, that it's public will Prince Harry have to leave Afghanistan?

Mr. EVANS: I think it's pretty well inevitable that he will have to be withdrawn. I mean, not because he can't continue to fulfill a proper job. After all, he's not wondering around on his own in Afghanistan. He will always be with other units. But I think the risks now are much greater.

I'm not saying that the Taliban know precisely what Prince Harry will look like when he's going around with a helmet on his head and all the military kit. But nevertheless, I think the feeling will be that he will be targeted and therefore the men under his command will be targeted. And that would be an unacceptable risk.

MONTAGNE: Just one last question. On the subject of the prince, as a person, as a young man, one of those interviews that has now been released has him speaking about this being something he wanted to do his whole life.

Prince HARRY: It's very nice to be sort of a normal person for once. I think this about as normal as I'm every going to get.

MONTAGNE: He sort of boasts in this interview that he hadn't showered in four days, and it was rather touching, actually.

Mr. EVANS: I think there's a lot of truth in that. You know, the royal family, they do have to live to a sort of an extraordinary level of protocol. They have to be protected wherever they go. And I think it is very difficult for anyone who's a member of the royal family to lead what you might call a normal life.

I think what he really enjoyed was actually being in charge of the 11 men that he was in charge of, mixing with perfectly normal, ordinary people who didn't treat as a royal prince but just treated him as a young officer, as they would any other young officer. Now, clearly they knew he was a prince and clearly that would have some sort of impact on the way they conducted themselves with him, but eventually he was just one of them.

MONTAGNE: Michael Evans is defense editor for the Times of London.

Thanks for joining us.

Mr. EVANS: Thank you.

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