This picture taken on October 31, 2012 shows Britain’s Prince Harry making his early morning pre-flight checks at the British controlled flight-line at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, where he was serving as an Apache Helicopter Pilot/Gunner with 662 Sqd Army Air Corps.
John Stillwell | Afp | Getty Images
The early release of Prince Harry’s tell-all memoir “Spare” is triggering anger from plenty of different sources, from loyal monarchy supporters to television pundits and ordinary Brits — and most recently, the Taliban.
The highly anticipated book, written in the years after Harry and his wife Meghan Markle left their roles in the British royal family, was accidentally put on sale in Spain several days before its official release date.
Among the many controversial revelations in the memoir is Harry’s disclosure that he killed 25 Taliban fighters while on deployment in Afghanistan with the British army.
According to excerpts from the book cited by Sky News, which has obtained a copy, Harry said he did not view the fighters as “people” but instead as “chess pieces” that he was removing from the board.
“It was not something that filled me with satisfaction, but I was not ashamed either,” the prince wrote. CNBC has not seen or been able to obtain a copy of the book.
Taliban leader Anas Haqqani hit back at the remarks on Twitter, writing: “Mr. Harry! The ones you killed were not chess pieces, they were humans; they had families who were waiting for their return. Among the killers of Afghans, not many have your decency to reveal their conscience and confess to their war crimes.”
Haqqani added: “Our innocent people were chess pieces to your soldiers, military and political leaders. Still, you were defeated in that ‘game’ of white & black ‘square’.”
The Taliban returned to full power over Afghanistan when the U.S. withdrew its last troops from the country in August 2021. It has since reimposed a hyper-conservative Islamic theocracy on the country, imposing violent punishments on dissenters and banning women from higher education, among other human rights abuses.
Prince Harry patrols the deserted town of Garmisir on January 2, 2008 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
John Stillwell | Anwar Hussein Collection/rota | Wireimage | Getty Images
Harry served in the British army for 10 years, obtaining the rank of captain. He served two tours in Afghanistan, the first in 2007-2008 as a forward air controller, and later in 2012-2013 as an attack helicopter pilot.
The Taliban leader isn’t the only one angry about Harry’s comments; the news prompted backlash from former members of the British military as well, who largely live by a culture of not openly speaking or bragging about lives they have taken during combat.
“Love you #PrinceHarry but you need to shut up!” Ben McBean, a former Royal Marine who served with Harry in Afghanistan, wrote Thursday on Twitter. “Makes you wonder the people he’s hanging around with. If it was good people somebody by now would have told him to stop.”
One former senior army officer who led British forces in Afghanistan in 2003, Col. Richard Kemp, described Harry’s comments as “ill-judged” and potentially even dangerous.
Harry’s words “were probably ill-judged for two reasons,” Kemp said in an interview with Sky News. “One is his suggestion that he killed 25 people will have reincited those people who wish him harm.”
Prince Harry sits in the front cockpit of an Apache helicopter at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion on October 31, 2012 in Afghanistan. Prince Harry served as an Apache Helicopter Pilot/Gunner with 662 Sqd Army Air Corps, from September 2012 for four months until January 2013.
John Stillwell | Wpa Pool | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The retired colonel added: “The other problem I found with his comments was that he characterized the British Army basically as having trained him and other soldiers to see his enemy as less than human, just as chess pieces on a board to be swiped off, which is not the case. It’s the opposite of the case.”
He warned that such comments could “incite some people to attempt an attack on British soldiers anywhere in the world.”
Kensington Palace, which represents Prince William, and Buckingham Palace which represents King Charles III, have so far declined to comment on the book and any of its claims. CNBC has reached out to a representative for Prince Harry for comment.