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Last Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008, 09:59 GMT
Army considers Harry deployment
Prince Harry
British media agreed not to report the prince's deployment
Army heads are to decide whether Prince Harry can continue his deployment in Afghanistan after news broke of him on the front line against the Taleban.

The Ministry of Defence has not said how much longer the 23-year-old royal will be on active duty in Afghanistan.

Chief of the Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup, is deciding whether Harry can stay in the country.

There are fears the prince, nicknamed "the bullet magnet", could now become a prized target for the Taleban.

Harry, who is third in line to the throne, has spent the last 10 weeks serving in Helmand Province.

Brigadier Patrick Marriott, a spokesman for the Army, said the possibility that details of Prince Harry's deployment would be made public had always been in the minds of senior army figures.

This is nothing but a publicity stunt. Prince Harry won't be anywhere near the front lines
David, Cleveland, England

"I think it's important that, throughout this whole process, risks have been managed incredibly well," he said.

"There's been an enormous amount of planning that's gone on into this, and the fact that this was going to break was always thought a possible outcome and so plans are there - and I think people can be reassured about that."

Sir Jock said the prince had been conducting himself "with professionalism" during his time out in Afghanistan.

"In serving his country with distinction in dangerous circumstances, he has shown the courage and determination that are the hallmarks of everyone in our armed forces, many of whom are operating under very challenging circumstances," Sir Jock said.

Accusations of collusion

A member of the Household Cavalry, Prince Harry has been based in a former madrassa along with a Gurkha regiment.

Work has involved calling up allied air cover in support of ground forces and going out on foot patrols.

His deployment there was subject to a news blackout deal struck to preserve his safety, but it broke down after foreign media leaked the story.

Prince Harry in 1993
Prince Harry had long dreamt of serving in the British armed forces

In exchange for not reporting the prince's deployment, some media organisations were granted access to the prince in Afghanistan for interviews and filming.

Critics have accused the media of "colluding with the authorities".

Speaking on BBC One's Question Time, Respect MP George Galloway said he did not like to see the British media, and particularly the BBC, becoming "part of the war effort".

He went on to say he thought it was "admirable" Prince Harry was in Afghanistan.

"I promise you there aren't any Members of Parliament sending their sons there; there aren't any ministers sending their sons there, so it is admirable in a way that he is there."

US website

The news blackout followed a voluntary agreement between the MoD and newspapers and broadcasters in the UK and abroad.

It is understood the news was first leaked in an Australian publication in January but only after it appeared on the influential US website, The Drudge Report, did the deal break down.

It's my understanding that Prince Harry will leave Afghanistan sooner rather than later
Peter Hunt, BBC royal correspondent

The head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt praised the UK media's "highly responsible attitude", but said he was disappointed foreign websites had decided to run the story.

He added: "Now that the story is in the public domain, the chief of defence staff and I will take advice from the operational commanders about whether his deployment can continue."

Many UK soldiers also expressed disappointment on the Army Rumour Service - an unofficial British army website used anonymously by personnel - that the prince's deployment had been made public.

Others praised the young royal for serving in Afghanistan, saying they were giving him a "cyber back-patting".

Editors' blog
A news black-out is unusual, but not unique
Jon Williams,
World news editor, BBC News

One said: "Very well done to Harry for getting out there, must have taken a serious amount of work to get people to agree to it."

The BBC's royal correspondent Peter Hunt said senior officers would now not only have to consider the prince's safety but also the safety of those around him.

"It's my understanding that Prince Harry will leave Afghanistan sooner rather than later," he said.

If that is the case, it will be a second major blow to the prince in his army career.

Last year, a planned tour to Iraq had to be cancelled at the last minute because of a security risk.

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