(CNN) — Prince Harry has drawn criticism from some British military and security figures — and a furious rebuke from the Taliban — after claiming in his memoir that he killed 25 Taliban fighters while serving with the British army in Afghanistan.
Harry made the revelation in his memoir “Spare,” according to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, which said it had obtained a copy of the Spanish version of the book ahead of its scheduled official release on Tuesday, January 10.
“My number is 25. It’s not a number that fills me with satisfaction, but it’s not an ashamed number either,” Harry writes, according to reports. In another section, he is quoted describing the Taliban insurgents as “chess pieces” taken off the board, rather than people.
CNN has not seen a copy of the book, but has requested an advance copy of the book from Penguin Random House. Several UK news outlets obtained Spanish copies on Thursday and cited translated excerpts.
The prince’s comments sparked a strong reaction from members of the military community, with leading figures saying they could jeopardize his safety and give the British military a bad name.
Former UK national security adviser Kim Darroch, who was Britain’s ambassador to the US from 2016 to 2019, told Sky News he would have advised Harry not to make the remarks. And Colonel Richard Kemp, a retired British army officer, told the same network that his reputation was “smeared” and the British army was “unfairly” painted in a negative light.
“Your suggestion that he killed 25 people will have incited people who want to hurt him again,” Kemp said. “Hopefully they don’t succeed and I’m sure you have pretty good security, but that’s a problem,” he added.
“The other problem I found with his comments was that he described the British Army as basically having trained himself and other soldiers to see their enemy as less than human, just chess pieces on a chessboard to be swept away, which which is not the case. It’s the opposite,” he added.
The Taliban regime, which returned to power in 2021 after two decades and is again pursuing a brutal crackdown on women’s rights, also responded angrily to Harry’s comments.
“Mr. Harry! The ones you killed were not chess pieces, they were humans; they had families waiting for their return,” said Anas Haqqani, who works as acting adviser to the Home Secretary and is the son of Haqqani network founder Jalaluddin. Haqqani.
“Among the murderers of Afghans, not many have the decency to reveal their conscience and confess to their war crimes,” he added.
Prince Harry served in the British Army for 10 years. He completed two tours of Afghanistan, one between 2007 and 2008 and another between 2012 and 2013. He achieved the rank of captain in 2011 and qualified as an Apache aircraft commander. Captain Harry Wales, as he was known in the Army, retired from service in 2015.
During his time serving with the British Army in Afghanistan, Harry said he used to rewatch footage of each “kill” from the camera mounted on his Apache helicopter after he returned to base, the Telegraph reported.
Former Marine, Ben McBeanwith whom Harry served in Afghanistan, also wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “I love you #PrinceHarry but you need to shut up! Makes you wonder what people he hangs out with. If he was nice people someone would have told him to stop by now.”
It’s unclear if McBean was referring specifically to Harry’s comments about his time in the military, or more generally to a number of other revelations in Harry’s memoirs that have caused upheaval in the British royal family.
Early reports about the book’s contents have dominated UK front pages and threaten to cause another headache for Harry’s father, King Charles III, and his brother, Prince William.
Perhaps the most dramatic revelation to emerge was the claim that William physically attacked Harry during an altercation in 2019, first reported by The Guardian.
CNN’s Niamh Kennedy and Ivana Kottasova contributed to this report.