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Britain's Prince Harry Withdrawn From Afghan Duty

British defense chiefs have decided to pull Prince Harry out of Afghanistan in the wake of news reports about his deployment in Helmand Province. The decision centered on security concerns for the third in line to the British throne and those around him. For VOA, Tom Rivers reports from London.

For 10 weeks, Prince Harry's deployment was a well-kept secret. The British media had agreed to a news blackout throughout that time, but when a U.S. website ran with the story, Defense officials here in London were forced to act.

Following a rapid risk assessment, the decision was made to withdraw Harry from Afghanistan and return him to Britain so he and his unit would not become a target of the Taliban.

His commanders in Helmand Province described the third in line to the throne as a model soldier and Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he has served with great distinction.

"I think everybody wants to thank him and all our serving forces for the courage and the professionalism and dedication that they show," he said.

The original plan was for the prince to be deployed for three months. But as British Defense Secretary Des Browne says, it was always understood that that could be cut short if his deployment became common knowledge.

"It is disappointing that the story has broken in the way in which it did however, we expected that this may happen," he said. "There was a contingency for this possibility. Those who command him had plans in place for the possibility that the story may break and so people should be reassured that those plans were designed to keep him safe and those who work with him safe."

Although Harry loves the army it is hard to say whether he will ever see forward position duty again given the risks not only to him but to those immediately around him.

Currently some 7,800 British troops are serving in Afghanistan, the second largest NATO contingent in the country, with most of them based in the tough Taliban-supported south.