UK defense secretary criticizes Prince Harry for ‘boasting’ about Taliban deaths

LONDON (CNN): UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said he disagrees with the Duke of Sussex’s decision to reveal how many Taliban fighters he killed while serving in the British Army in Afghanistan, saying “boasting about tallies” lets down others in the armed forces.

Prince Harry faced criticism last month from some British security and military figures, as well as the Taliban itself, after he claimed in his autobiography “Spare” that he had killed 25 of the insurgent group’s fighters.

“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,” Harry wrote.

Wallace told British radio station LBC Thursday that “every veteran makes their own choices about what they want to talk about,” but “the armed forces is not about a tally.”

A former soldier himself, Wallace said that “boasting about tallies, or talking about tallies … distorts the fact that the army is a team game,” with the infantry supported by hundreds of people, such as those in the Royal Logistic Corps and in headquarters.

“It’s not about who can shoot the most or who doesn’t shoot the most,” Wallace added. “It’s my personal view that if you start talking about who did what, you’re actually letting down all those other people because you’re not a better person because you did and they didn’t.”

In his autobiography, Harry wrote at length about his experiences in the British Armed Forces.

The prince completed two tours of Afghanistan, one spanning 2007 to 2008 and the other from 2012 to 2013.

In his book passages, Harry recounted how the advancements in technology allowed him to say “precisely how many enemy combatants” he had killed, and that he saw them as “chess pieces removed from the board.”

“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,” Harry wrote.

He later denied boasting about the number of Taliban fighters he had killed, saying last month on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” that his “whole goal … with sharing that detail is to reduce the number of (veteran) suicides.”

Some leading figures from the military community criticized Harry in January, when sections of his book were leaked shortly before its publication date, saying that his remarks could jeopardize his safety and give the British Army a bad reputation.

The UK’s former national security adviser Kim Darroch, who was the British ambassador to the United States from 2016 to 2019, told Sky News he would have advised Harry against making the statements.

Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired British army officer, told the same network they “tarnished” his reputation and “unjustly” painted the British Army in a negative light.