The Islamist Taliban joined British critics Friday to denounce Prince Harry for admitting to being responsible for the killing of 25 people in Afghanistan while serving as a military helicopter pilot there.
The British prince made the disclosures in his upcoming memoir, Spare, claiming the army had trained him to view members of the then-insurgent Taliban not “as people” but instead as “chess pieces” to be removed from the board.
Taliban foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi slammed Harry’s revelations.
“The western occupation of Afghanistan is truly an odious moment in human history and comments by Prince Harry is a microcosm of the trauma experienced by Afghans at the hands of occupation forces whom murdered innocents without any accountability,” Balkhi told VOA in written comments.
“Some of the recent reports highlighting the scale of murder by foreign airpower and raids including by UK forces is what Prince Harry also participated in,” Balkhi said.
Harry is quoted as saying that the death of the 25 people “wasn't a statistic that filled me with pride but nor did it leave me ashamed.”
The 38-year-old Duke of Sussex said he killed the insurgents during his second deployment to Afghanistan in 2012, when he conducted six combat missions as an Apache helicopter co-pilot.
"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,” tweeted Anas Haqqani, a central Taliban leader.
Harry also came under fire from British media and former army officers for what they denounced as irresponsible disclosures by the prince, fearing they could endanger his personal security and expose British soldiers serving overseas to revenge attacks by Taliban sympathizers.
“Love you #PrinceHarry but you need to shut up!” Ben McBean, a former Royal Marine who served with Harry in Afghanistan, tweeted Thursday. “Makes you wonder the people he’s hanging around with. If it was good people, somebody by now would have told him to stop.”
Harry’s autobiography is scheduled for publication in Britain on January 10. It showed up on bookshelves in Barcelona, Spain, on January 5.
More than 240,000 people, most of them civilians, died as a direct result of the war in Afghanistan since the U.S. invaded the country to topple the Taliban in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.
The U.S. and its NATO allies lost the lives of 3,586 soldiers, including 2,442 Americans, according to figures released by the Brown University’s Costs of War project in 2021.
“I don’t expect that the [International Criminal Court] will summon you or the human rights activists will condemn you, because they are deaf and blind for you. But hopefully these atrocities will be remembered in the history of humanity,” Haqqani wrote.
Haqqani is the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the interior minister in the interim Taliban administration.
The Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August 2021 from the then internationally backed government as the United States-led western troops withdrew from the country after 20 years of war with the insurgents.
The Taliban themselves were accused of committing war crimes while waging insurgent attacks against foreign forces and their Afghan partners.
The elder Haqqani led and trained a large group of militants, plotting high-profile attacks in support of Taliban insurgents and killing hundreds of people, including foreign nationals.
“The Haqqanis killed some Americans, yes. But they killed vastly more Afghans—the same people, with the same humanity, that he’s lecturing Harry about,” tweeted Jonathan Schroden who directs the U.S.-based Countering Threats and Challenges Program at the CNA Corporation.
The U.S. still lists the so-called Haqqani Network of militants as a global terrorist organization and carries a multimillion-dollar bounty for information leading to the arrest of its head, the current Taliban interior minister.
The Islamist rulers have rolled back the human rights of Afghans and placed restrictions on women’s access to public life, as well as education since taking control of Afghanistan.
The Taliban have reintroduced their strict interpretation of Islamic law or Shariah to govern Afghanistan, regularly carrying out public flogging of alleged criminals, including women, in defiance of global calls for halting the punishment. The group also staged its public execution of a convicted murder last month, triggering a global outrage.
The Taliban have rejected calls for reversing bans on women and other polices, effectively deterring the international community from formally granting legitimacy to the de facto rulers in Kabul. (SJ/VOA)