March 2, 2008 / 12:32 AM / 11 years ago

UK military chiefs wary of Harry frontline return

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s Prince Harry is keen to return to the frontline in Afghanistan “very, very soon” but military chiefs fear that could pose a major security headache.

Britain's Prince Harry talks about his recent tour of duty in Afghanistan during a TV interview, after arriving back at RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, southern England, March 1, 2008. REUTERS/John Stillwell/Pool

Queen Elizabeth’s grandson and third in line to the throne had to be hastily pulled out of Afghanistan after a voluntary news blackout on his deployment was broken. After just 10 weeks in the frontline, the flame-haired 23-year-old returned to Britain on Saturday determined to see action again.

“I would love to go back out ... I want to go out very, very soon,” he said in a pooled interview for reporters after returning for a family reunion with his father Prince Charles and brother Prince William.

Asked if his fighting days might now be finished, he said: “I hope not. I hope that this has now been proven that the system can work and the British press go along with the deal, everything in place has proved that it can actually work.”

He was pulled out from the frontline because defence officials feared worldwide coverage of his deployment with the British army could endanger him and his fellow soldiers.

The British media had maintained the voluntary blackout on his deployment, but that collapsed after Web sites in Australia, Germany and the United States leaked the news.

Harry was bitterly disappointed and even contemplated leaving the army after his deployment to Iraq was cancelled at the last moment last year because of security fears.

Military leaders did not want to build up his hopes of a speedy return to the frontline after his Afghan sortie.

Britain’s army chief Richard Dannatt said: “The immediate prospect of Prince Harry going anywhere else is some way off in the future.”

Dannatt’s caution was echoed on Sunday by Jock Stirrup, head of Britain’s armed forces.

“I would have to be clear that the risks to the operation in the widest sense of the people deployed on that operation would be no higher than they would normally be in such circumstances,” he told Sky News.

He refused to be drawn on Harry’s future deployment prospects, but added: “Of course it can never be like some ordinary person’s career. He is a member of the Royal Family, he is in the line of succession to the throne and that’s always going to make a difference.”

Editing by Caroline Drees

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