|Prince Harry may still get a chance to see action
By MATTHEW HICKLEY
29th May 2007
Prince Harry could still fulfil his dream of serving in a war zone after Army chiefs drew up plans for him to serve with UK forces in Afghanistan this summer.
Desperate to salvage some credibility from the debacle of his cancelled mission to Iraq, top brass are considering sending him with fellow officers to help train the Afghan army.
The young prince was due to deploy as a troop commander with his Blues and Royals Regiment to southern Iraq this month, until the head of the Army General Sir Richard Dannatt decided it was too dangerous both for him and his fellow-soldiers.
Now the Daily Mail has learned that an alternative plan is being developed for Harry to fly to Afghanistan to join the 6,500-strong UK force battling Taliban insurgents.
The 22-year-old prince has been trained to lead a 12-strong armoured reconnaissance unit, but he would instead join a small group of fellow officers - including some from his own regiment - in Afghanistan.
Senior defence officials hope commanders would be able to keep Harry away from the public gaze, allowing him to carry out a meaningful role without facing excessive risks.
It is hoped he could travel to Afghanistan unannounced, spend a few weeks there and return without attracting publicity.
The plan would ease his bitter disappointment at not being allowed to serve with his unit - which is now in Iraq being led by a stand-in junior commander - and could even keep alive Harry's dream of a long-term Army career.
One Army insider told the Mail: "I'm sure Harry will jump at the chance. It may not be the same as going to Iraq with his own guys, but it's better than sitting at home 'on his a***', as he put it.
"Everything depends on security, both for him and the people around him."
Clarence House declined to comment, saying: "Operational deployments are a matter for the Ministry of Defence."
The MoD declined to comment on security grounds. The Mail understands preparations are in hand and other officers heading for Afghanistan have been briefed.
But senior commanders are all too aware of how sensitive the plans are, say insiders, and a final decision from Sir Richard is not expected for some weeks.
The Taliban have announced a new offensive, code-amed operation Kamin or "Ambush", against Nato forces.
A spokesman said: "We will target our enemies and use our tactics - suicide bombs, remote-controlled (roadside bombs) and ambushes."
It was three weeks ago that Sir Richard announced an 11th hour U-turn over Harry's planned deployment to Iraq.
He said "specific intelligence" meant the risk to the prince and to his fellow soldiers would be too high.
Commanders had learned of plots to seize Harry and smuggle him across the border to Iran - raising the nightmare prospect of a royal hostage crisis.
An insurgent sniper had also been ordered to assassinate him as a "priority".
The decision was a crushing blow for Harry, who had said publicly there was no way he wanted to "haul his sorry a***" through Sandhurst only to be left behind while his men went off to war.
Publicly he accepted the decision and Clarence House played down talk of him quitting the Army, but in private he told friends he still hoped to be able to serve in a combat zone.