Prince Harry’s “Chess Pieces” Remarks Regarding Killings in Afghanistan Draws Taliban’s Ire Amid Global Uproar

The latest: At least it might just be a classic case of foot in the mouth for Britain’s Prince Harry after he claimed in his autobiography that he killed people in Afghanistan like “chess pieces” as even the Taliban have now criticised him.

Go deeper:

  • The royal wrote in his new memoir Spare that he killed 25 fighters during his second tour of Afghanistan.
  • Abdul Qahar Balkhi, a spokesman for the Taliban-led Afghan foreign affairs ministry, criticised the comments.
  • “The Western occupation of Afghanistan is truly an odious moment in human history and comments by Prince Harry [are] a microcosm of the trauma experienced by Afghans at the hands of occupation forces who murdered innocents without any accountability,” he said.
  • Anas Haqqani, a senior Taliban leader, criticised the Duke of Sussex over the remarks, saying those Harry killed had families.
  • “Mr Harry! The ones you killed were not chess pieces, they were humans,” Haqqani tweeted, accusing the prince of committing war crimes. The truth is what you’ve said; Our innocent people were chess pieces to your soldiers, military and political leaders.
  • Haqqani said he did not expect the International Criminal Court (ICC) to condemn Harry “because they are deaf and blind for you.”
  • “But hopefully these atrocities will be remembered in the history of humanity,” he concluded.
  • Apart from the Taliban, even some former members of the British military have spoken out about what Harry chose to divulge through his writing.

Back story: In one section, the 38-year-old recounts his tours of Afghanistan, first as a forward air controller in 2007-08 and again in 2012, when he was a gunner in Apache attack helicopters, and the number of people he had killed.

  • “It wasn’t a statistic that filled me with pride, but nor did it leave me ashamed,” Harry wrote, according to the Spanish version of the book.
  • “When I found myself plunged in the heat and confusion of combat, I didn’t think of those 25 as people. They were chess pieces removed from the board, bad people eliminated before they could kill Good people.”

Zoom out: 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.

  • Tens of thousands of British troops served in Afghanistan, and more than 450 died, between the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 and the end of U.K. combat operations in 2014.
  • Harry spent a decade in the British Army, serving twice in Afghanistan. He spent 10 weeks as a forward air controller in 2007-2008 until a media leak cut short his tour.
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