The Duke of Sussex has been accused of “exploiting” military veterans’ suicides in a “desperate attempt at damage limitation” after revealing how many Taliban fighters he killed in Afghanistan.
The Duke has been heavily criticised by senior military figures for writing in his memoir, Spare, that he had killed 25 insurgents. Many warned he had jeopardised his own security and that of others.
Asked about the negative reaction, the Duke told a US chat show that his aim was to give veterans the “space” to be honest and to share their experiences without shame.
“My whole goal and my attempt with sharing that detail is to reduce the number of suicides,” he said.
He denied “boasting” about the figure and blamed the media for taking the comment out of context and turning it into “the most dangerous lie that they have told” by elevating his security risk.
However Col Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, told The Telegraph: “I think it is extremely cynical to exploit veterans’ suicides to excuse the comments he made on Afghanistan, now they have received such a backlash from so many veterans.
“His explanation might have been more credible if he’d included it in his book.
“Instead, this looks like a desperate attempt at damage limitation.
“It is quite extraordinary deflection to say that those who have commented on his own claims are increasing the threat to him.
“To blame others and for the dangers he has brought on himself with his remarks is part of a pattern of refusing to take responsibility for his own actions.”
Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the defence select committee, accused the Duke of “digging in” after he defended the controversial revelation.
Mr Ellwood said: “It is simply taboo to mention kill counts.
“We must never lose sight of why we send our military into conflict. Our Armed Forces are only ever mobilised to defend and maintain peace for a legitimate cause.
“When we speak about the professionalism of UK forces, it’s not just about our combat effectiveness but how we conduct ourselves in the aftermath of battle.
“We treat our adversaries with respect and that includes treating PoWs according to international law, caring for those who are injured and proper burials for the dead.
“Killing is never the primary objective and I’d encourage Prince Harry to clarify his comments.”
The Duke claimed during his interview with Stephen Colbert on The Late Show that he faced an increased security threat, not because of his revelation but as a direct result of the media coverage.
“That is a choice they have made,” he said, referring to the media.
“If I heard anyone boasting about that kind of thing, I would be angry. But it’s a lie.
“My words are not dangerous, but the spin of my words are very dangerous.”
Elsewhere in the interview, the Duke claimed that his family was engaged in an “active campaign” to undermine his book because it made them feel “uncomfortable and scared”.
The fact that he knows how the system works is “terrifying for them”, he claimed.
“The moment that I started doing therapy, it’s like we started speaking a different language,” the Duke added.
“They couldn’t understand me. I was doing my best to try and encourage them to healing.”
The Duke also admitted that he watches The Crown and “fact checks” it, including the “older stuff and more recent stuff”.
He admitted that he was previously “obsessed” with the media, but claimed he had now weaned himself off it. He is now worried about “what he put through his eyes” as much as what he put into his mouth.
In lighter moments, the Duke was filmed being greeted at the New York television studio by men dressed as ceremonial guards with trumpets, before he was told to move out of the way as the fanfare was for actor Tom Hanks.
The Duke sipped tequila throughout the interview, at one point admitting that he had always wrongly assumed that if he and Meghan had children there was no way “the ginger gene would stand up to his wife’s genes”.
Meanwhile, a statement was shared on the Sussexes’ Archewell website congratulating the Duke on the publication of his book and praising him for his “courage, honesty, humour, and light”.
It was signed by the “staff and team at Archewell and private office of the Duke and Duchess”.