London: Prince Harry will not be sent to Iraq as previously planned, the British army chief said on 16 May 2007, insisting concerns for his safety had forced the decision.
The 22-year-old prince, third-in-line to the throne, was “very disappointed” by the announcement, a royal spokesman said, but he added that he would not quit the army.
General Sir Richard Dannatt acknowledged that Harry would not be pleased with the decision, but said the risk that he and fellow troops would be targeted was too great.
“I have decided today that Prince Harry will not deploy as a troop commander with his squadron,” he said in a statement, adding that his decision was “final.”
“There have been a number of specific threats—some reported and some not reported—which relate directly to Prince Harry as an individual.
“These threats expose not only him but also those around him to a degree of risk that I now deem unacceptable.”
Harry is a second lieutenant in the elite Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry.
Dannatt insisted in April that Harry would join the regiment on a six-month tour of duty in Iraq later this month. He was due to be in charge of 11 soldiers and four Scmitar reconnaissance vehicles.
But recent weeks have been some of the bloodiest for the 7,100 British troops in Iraq—12 died last month alone and a total of 148 have now died there since the March 2003 US-led invasion.
A commander of Iraq’s biggest Shiite Muslim militia, Abu Mujtaba, told The Guardian newspaper in April that it had “a special unit that would track (Harry) down, with informants inside the bases.”
Some media reports have suggested that Harry could resign from the army if he was not allowed to go to Iraq.
He himself said in 2005: “There’s no way I’m going to put myself through Sandhurst (the army officers’ training college) and then sit on my arse back home while my boys are out fighting for their country.”
But Clarence House, the official residence of Prince Charles and his two sons Harry and William, made it clear that he would not quit in the wake of the announcement.
“Prince Harry is very disappointed that he will not be able to go to Iraq with his troops on this deployment as he had hoped,” it said in a statement.
“He fully understands and accepts General Dannatt’s difficult decision and remains committed to his army career.
“Prince Harry’s thoughts are with his troops and the rest of the battle group in Iraq.”
Dannatt, who did not rule out Harry, who is known as Cornet Wales in his regiment, deploying to Iraq in the future, acknowledged that he would not be happy.
“Let me also make quite clear that as a professional soldier, Prince Harry will be extremely disappointed,” he said.
Prince William is also an officer in the Blues and Royals, but is unlikely to see frontline military action, given his status as future monarch.
The last British royal to serve in a warzone was William and Harry’s uncle, Prince Andrew, who was a Royal Navy helicopter pilot during the 1982 Falklands War.