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Harry book exclusive: Full context of ‘25 Taliban kills’ comment revealed as entire extract published for first time

The Duke of Sussex has been criticised for the revelations while others have come to his defence - read the full 987-word passage from SPARE below

KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 09:  Prince Harry salutes as the Last Post is played as he joins British troops and service personal remaining in Afghanistan and also International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel and civilians as they gather for a Remembrance Sunday service at Kandahar Airfield November 9, 2014 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. As the UK combat mission in Afghanistan draws to an end in 2014 this year, which also marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, 70 years since the D-Day landings will be the last time British service personal will gather in any great numbers in the south of the country.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Harry, pictured at a Remembrance Day Service in Afghanistan in 2014, revealed he killed 25 Taliban fighters. (Getty Images)

The full extract from Prince Harry's memoir Spare, in which he details his controversial "kill count" of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, can be published for the first time by Yahoo.

The Duke of Sussex has come under criticism following media reports of his disclosure that he killed 25 Taliban insurgents while serving as an Apache pilot in 2012/13 during one of his two tours of Afghanistan.

(Read the full 987-word extract below)

Contents of the book were kept tightly under wraps in the run-up to its scheduled release on 10 January, but it accidentally went on sale in Spain on Thursday before being swiftly removed from book shelves.

Copies of the memoir have also been leaked in America, while the Guardian newspaper in the UK published extracts about Harry's claim he was physically attacked by Prince William.

A retired British Army colonel, a senior Taliban leader and a former Defence Secretary are among a number of senior figures to have accused the duke of turning against his “other family, the military”. He has also been accused of threatening his own security by disclosing his personal Taliban "kill count".

CAMP BASTION, AFGHANISTAN - NOVEMBER 03:  In this image released on January 21, 2013, Prince Harry (R)  races out from the VHR (very high ready-ness) tent to scramble his Apache with fellow pilots, during his 12 hour shift at the British controlled flight-line in Camp Bastion on November 3, 2012 in Afghanistan. Prince Harry has served as an Apache Helicopter Pilot/Gunner with 662 Sqd Army Air Corps, from September 2012 for four months until January 2013.  (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Harry and fellow pilot scramble to their Apache helicopters whilst serving in Afghanistan in 2012. (Getty Images)

But Harry has also received support from within the military.

In response to criticism that Harry would not have known the number of insurgents he killed, friend and Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers said: "In Modern Warfare it’s ‘Literally Recorded’, numbers kept, not by the pilot but by those who watch and command them. War is hellish and those who experience it first hand know the context and can ultimately reflect on it as they see fit."

Fellow veteran Dave Henson said: "Context is everything, and so crucial to support an accurate narrative. Unhelpful to jump on isolated sentences or figures."

Nathan Jones, a former Royal Air Force pilot and who competed in the Invictus Games and is now a mental health advocate, said: "A lot of people are having some very strong opinions on Prince Harry right now and most without any knowledge of the background of what they’re saying or commenting on. Be careful what you say as words can be incredibly damaging."

Yahoo News UK has seen an English language version of the full extract and has published it in full.

The passage includes:

  • Harry's admission that he had been well-trained to "otherize" Taliban insurgents to enable him to kill them and that he recognised this as "problematic"

  • That Harry's depiction of 25 'kills' is an accurate number based on a "timestamped... careful review" of every video taken from his Apache helicopter and that none of the missions in which he took the life of an enemy fighter were found to be "irregular"

  • Harry's regret that he was unable to help a group of Gurkhas pinned in by Taliban fighters

  • More context around his description of Afghanistan as a "war of mistakes", and that this was a view Harry and others feared to be true

OXFORDSHIRE, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: Prince Harry, army officer Cornet Wales is met by his father Prince Charles and brother Prince William as he returns to Britain at Royal Air Force RAF Brize Norton airbase after active service in Afghanistan on March 1,2008 in Oxfordshire, England. (Photo by Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images)
Charles and William greet Harry as he returned to England from active service in Afghanistan in 2008. (Getty Images)

The full 987-word extract is published below:

(The book is available to pre-order here)

We kept following the two motorbikes through several villages, while griping about the bureaucracy of war, the reluctance of higher-ups to let us do what we'd been trained to do. Maybe, in our griping, we were no different from soldiers in every war. We wanted to fight: we didn't understand larger issues, underlying geopolitics. Big picture. Some commanders often said, publicly and privately, that they feared every Taliban killed would create three more, so they were extra cautious. At times we felt the commanders were right: we were creating more Taliban. But there had to be a better answer than floating nearby while innocents got slaughtered.

Five minutes became ten became twenty.

We never did get permission.

Every kill was on video.

The Apache saw all. The camera in its nose recorded all. So, after every mission, there would be a careful review of that video.

Returning to Bastion, we'd walk into the gun tape room, slide the video into a machine, which would project the kill onto wall-mounted plasma TVs.

Our squadron commander would press his face against the screens, examining, murmuring- wrinkling his nose. He wasn't merely looking for errors, this chap, he was hungry for them. He wanted to catch us in a mistake.

We called him awful names when he wasn't around. We came close to calling him those names to his face. Look, whose side are you on?

But that was what he wanted. He was trying to provoke us, to get us to say the unspeakable.


Jealousy, we decided.

(NO PUBLICATION IN UK MEDIA FOR 28 DAYS) Prince Harry patrols the deserted town of Garmisir on January 2, 2008 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Photo by Anwar Hussein Collection/ROTA/WireImage)
Prince Harry patrols the deserted town of Garmisir in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2008. (Getty Images)

It ate him up inside that he'd never pulled a trigger in battle. He'd never attacked the enemy.

So he attacked us.

Despite his best efforts, he never found anything irregular in any of our kills. I was part of six missions that ended in the taking of human life, and they were all deemed justified by a man who wanted to crucify us. I deemed them the same.

What made the squadron commander's attitude so execrable was this: He was exploiting a real and legitimate fear. A fear we all shared. Afghanistan was a war of mistakes, a war of enormous collateral damage - thousands of innocents killed and maimed, and that always haunted us. So my goal from the day I arrived was never to go to bed doubting that I'd done the right thing, that my targets had been correct, that I was firing on Taliban and only Taliban, no civilians nearby. I wanted to return to Britain with all my limbs, but more, I wanted to go home with my conscience intact. Which meant being aware of what I was doing, and why I was doing it, at all times.

Most soldiers can't tell you precisely how much death is on their ledger. In battle conditions, there's often a great deal of indiscriminate firing. But in the age of Apaches and laptops, everything I did in the course of two combat tours was recorded, time-stamped. I could always say precisely how many enemy combatants I'd killed. And I felt it vital never to shy away from that number.

CAMP BASTION, AFGHANISTAN - DECEMBER 12:  In this image released on January 21, 2013, Prince Harry, wears his monocle gun sight as he sits in the front seat of his cockpit at the British controlled flight-line at Camp Bastion on December 12, 2012 in Afghanistan. Prince Harry has served as an Apache Helicopter Pilot/Gunner with 662 Sqd Army Air Corps, from September 2012 for four months until January 2013.  (Photo by John Stillwell - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prince Harry, wears his monocle gun sight as he sits in the cockpit of his Apache Helicopter in 2012. (Getty Images)

Among the many things I learned in the Army, accountability was near the top of the list.

So, my number: Twenty-five. It wasn't a number that gave me any satisfaction. But neither was it a number that made me feel ashamed. Naturallv, I'd have preferred not to have that number on my military CV, on my mind, but by the same token I'd have preferred to live in a world in which there was no Taliban, a world without war. Even for an occasional practitioner of magical thinking like me, however, some realities just can't be changed.

While in the heat and fog of combat, I didn't think of those twenty-five as people. You can't kill people if you think of them as people. You can't really harm people if you think of them as people. They were chess pieces removed from the board, Bads taken away before they could kill Goods. I'd been trained to "other-ize" them, trained well. On some level I recognized this learned detachment as problematic. But I also saw it as an unavoidable part of soldiering.

Another reality that couldn't be changed.

HELMAND PROVINCE- FEBRUARY 21: (NO PUBLICATION IN UK MEDIA FOR 28 DAYS)  Prince Harry tries to start an abandoned motorcycle in the desert on February 21, 2008 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  (Photo by John Stillwell - POOL/Anwar Hussein Collection/WireImage)
Prince Harry tries to start an abandoned motorcycle in the desert in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2008. (Getty Images)

Not to say that I was some kind of automaton. I never forgot being in that TV room at Eton, the one with the blue doors, watching the Twin Towers melt as people leaped from the roofs and high windows. I never forgot the parents and spouses and children I met in New York, clutching photos of the moms and dads who'd been crushed or vaporized or burned alive. September 11 was vile, indelible, and all those responsible, along with their sympathizers and enablers, their allies and successors, were not just our enemies, but enemies of humanity. Fighting them meant avenging one of the most heinous crimes in world history, and preventing it from happening again.

As my tour neared its end, around Christmas 2012, I had questions and qualms about the war, but none of these was moral. I still believed in the Mis-sion, and the only shots I thought twice about were the ones I hadn't taken.

For instance, the night we were called in to help some Gurkhas. They were pinned down by a nest of Taliban fighters, and when we arrived there was a breakdown in communications, so we simply weren't able to help. It haunts me still: hearing my Gurkha brothers calling out on the radio, remembering every Gurkha I'd known and loved, being prevented from doing anything.

HELMAND PROVINCE, AFGHANISTAN - JANUARY 02:  (NO PUBLICATION IN UK MEDIA FOR 28 DAYS)  Prince Harry sits with Gurkha soldiers after he fires a 50mm machine gun at Taliban fighters on January 2, 2008 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.  (Photo by John Stillwell - POOL/Anwar Hussein Collection/WireImage)
Prince Harry sits with Gurkha soldiers in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, 2008. (Getty Images)

As I fastened my bags and said my goodbyes I was honest with myself: I acknowledged plenty of regrets. But they were the healthy kind. I regretted the things I hadn't done, the Brits and Yanks I hadn't been able to help.

I regretted the job not being finished.

Most of all, I regretted that it was time to leave.

Neither Buckingham Palace nor Kensington Palace have comment on the memoir.