LONDON - The secret is out: Prince Harry has been on the front line with his British army unit in one of Afghanistan's most lawless and barren provinces.
The prince, third in line to the British throne, has been in Afghanistan since December.
The Ministry of Defense confirmed his role yesterday after news of his deployment appeared on the U.S.-based Drudge Report Web site.
The planned deployment had been disclosed to reporters, but had not been reported under an agreement between the Ministry of Defense and all major news organizations operating in Britain. The blackout was intended to reduce the risk to the prince and his regiment.
British officials had hoped to keep the prince's deployment secret until he had returned, but they released video of Prince Harry, 23, serving in Helmand Province.
Military chiefs are angry over the leak and are considering whether Prince Harry should be moved out of Afghanistan.
"I will take advice from the operational commanders about whether his deployment can continue," the army's commander, Gen. Richard Dannatt, said.
Prince Harry was supposed to go to Iraq with the Blues and Royals regiment in May but the assignment was scrapped because of security fears. Iraqi insurgents made threats on Internet chat rooms, saying he would not make it home alive.
Putting aside his usual life of privilege and serving in Afghanistan, the prince spoke of going without showers for days and eating corned beef and hash.
Prince Harry trained at Sandhurst military academy and joined the Blues and Royals as a cornet, the equivalent of a second lieutenant. After he was held back from his Iraq assignment, the prince threatened to quit the army if he wasn't given the chance to see combat. His grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II, told Prince Harry the news when it was decided that he could serve in Afghanistan.
"She told me I'm off to Afghanistan so that was the way it was supposed to be," he said in Afghanistan, his hair coated with dust. "She was very 'pro' me going then, so I think she's relieved that I get the chance to do what I want to do," he added. He said he tries to phone home once a week.
Prince Harry said his older brother, Prince William, who also graduated from Sandhurst and is training as a military pilot, is jealous. As second in line for the throne, Prince William is unlikely to ever see combat.
Helmand Province, where most of the 7,800 British soldiers in Afghanistan are based, has seen some of the country's fiercest combat in recent years, with NATO-led forces fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.
Since the U.S.-led invasion ousted Afghanistan's Taliban regime in late 2001, 89 British soldiers have been killed.
Prince Harry's work in Afghanistan has involved calling in airstrikes on Taliban positions and going on foot patrols. He spent part of his deployment at a base just 500 yards from Taliban positions, the military said.
Since his arrival, his battle group has been responsible for about 30 enemy deaths, a Ministry of Defense official said.
Video showed the prince in camouflage fatigues walking across arid and dusty terrain, calling in air support, firing a machine gun, and patrolling the streets of Garmsir, the province's southernmost part. He has since left Garmsir, but his whereabouts are secret.
Before his posting, Prince Harry had been better known in the British tabloids for his love of the nightclub dance floors and was pictured more than once scuffling with photographers waiting for his often boozy exit.
But General Dannatt described his performance as exemplary. "He has been fully involved in operations and has run the same risks as everyone else in his battle group," the general said.
Prince Harry is the first royal to serve in a combat zone since his uncle Prince Andrew flew copters during Britain's war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands in 1982.51.50632 -0.127144