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Harry moved during Taliban attack
The Defence Secretary said Prince Harry would have been moved to a secure location during the attack on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan
Prince Harry was moved to a guarded location during a recent Taliban attack on Camp Bastion, the Defence Secretary has said.
Philip Hammond had earlier told the Commons that Captain Wales - as Harry is known to the Army - was never in danger although he was present during the assault on Bastion last Friday. He later explained that the 28-year-old is being protected by "additional security arrangements" as he carries out his second tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Speaking on BBC 2's Newsnight, he said: "Clearly there are fall-back plans and I can't go into the detail of them - but once we knew on Friday night that the perimeter at Bastion had been breached he would have been moved to a secure position under effective guard."
Asked by presenter Jeremy Paxman if that meant Prince Harry was not treated the same as every other soldier, the Defence Secretary said: "You asked me whether he was at any greater risk. And I've told you that in combat he's at the same risk as any other Apache pilot.
"Clearly if we had a VIP in theatre and frankly if I was there or, Jeremy, if you were there in Camp Bastion and there was a breach of the perimeter security, anybody who might, by nature of who they are, be a target, they would be put in a secure location."
Two US Marines were killed and six planes destroyed during the attack on the desert base in Helmand province, where the bulk of the UK's 9,500-strong force in Afghanistan are deployed. Taliban sources claimed Bastion was targeted because Prince Harry is serving there as an Apache attack helicopter gunner. The Prince was about two kilometres away during the assault on the base, which is the same size as Reading.
Answering an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Hammond insisted the strategy of "mentoring and training" Afghan army and police was vital to the war effort, adding: "We cannot and we will not allow the process to be derailed."
Conservative MP Bob Stewart, who commanded UN troops in Bosnia as an Army colonel, welcomed the decision to scale back mentoring work with Afghan troops and police. Col Stewart said British troops should now be withdrawn from Afghanistan "as fast as possible", and said he believed Mr Cameron and Mr Hammond were now working to this goal.
Beckenham MP Col Stewart said that "green-on-blue" incidents had now reached "enormous proportions" and the Afghan authorities' efforts to vet recruits to root out insurgents was "clearly not working", adding: "I really feel for soldiers who are sent out to do this job. I have been in that sort of position myself and it is terrifying. I don't see why we should continue to push our young men out into the field just to be targets."
Shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander told Today: "This announcement begs more questions than it answers. Does this represent a temporary tactical response by military commanders on the ground or does it represent a more strategic shift in the mission? If we are in a position where a regional commander is generally unwilling to grant the authority for troops to go out on patrol with Afghan soldiers, that would severely compromise the capacity of the mission to deliver its objectives."