Prince Harry has used his Invictus Games platform to encourage fellow Afghanistan veterans to “reach out” and “support” one another after the Taliban retook the country. It has not gone unnoticed that no words were aimed at Harry’s chum, Joe Biden, who yesterday said, he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw troops.
Former UK servicemen deployed to Iraq have reacted bitterly to the Taliban retaking control of the country before the US troop withdrawal had even been completed.
“There are a lot of broken hearts in the British Army today,” a former British paratrooper who completed three tours of Afghanistan told the Telegraph. “A lot of us have spent so much time in Kandahar and Lashkar Gah and to see them fall is awful. When you go to these places you care about them.”
Outspoken former army officer and until recently, veterans minister, Johnny Mercer blasted the “huge miscalculation”, asserting the US and the UK had “surrendered” and described chaotic efforts to try and save Afghans who worked with coalition forces as “humiliating”.
“We have a duty to get these people out, we have a people to extract in an orderly fashion, it’s very hard, I never thought I’d see the day where essentially we’ve surrendered to the Taliban,” Mercer told Sky News.
Prince Harry, who performed two tours of Afghanistan, the first as an infantry officer with the Blues and Royals, the second as an Apache pilot was more mellow in his outlook, in keeping with his latter-day liberal California persona.
“What’s happening in Afghanistan resonates across the international Invictus community,” Harry said via the Invictus Games Foundation.
“Many of the participating nations and competitors in the Invictus Games family are bound by a shared experience of serving in Afghanistan over the past two decades, and for several years, we have competed alongside Invictus Games Team Afghanistan.
“We encourage everybody across the Invictus network – and the wider military community – to reach out to each other and offer support for one another.”
Nowhere in Harry’s statement was the US president mentioned, even though he is being widely blamed for the catastrophic and tragic conclusion of the West’s 20-year presence in Afghanistan.
In the run-up to last year’s presidential election Harry and his woke wife, Meghan Markle caused outrage when they waded into the campaign, calling on Americans to “reject hate speech” at the “most important election of our lifetime”
In the online video, Harry said: “This election I am not able to vote in the US. But many of you may not know that I haven’t been able to vote in the UK my entire life. As we approach this November, it’s vital that we reject hate speech, misinformation and online negativity.”
The move was widely seen as an unsubtle attack at Donald Trump during a fierce battle against Biden.
The gesture was returned six months later in the aftermath of the Sussexes’ bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey. At a White House press conference, Biden’s spokesperson, Jen Psaki wedged in praise for the royal couple.
“For anyone to come forward and speak about their own struggles with mental health and tell their own personal story, that takes courage and that’s certainly something the president believes,” said Psaki.
The Markles are well-known to be great pals with Joe and Jill Biden. As vice-president, Biden once quipped his wife “spent too much damn time with Prince Harry” when she attended the Invictus Games in London.
Now Biden faces the worst foreign policy disaster in half a century, images of helicopters rescuing people from Kabul rooftops offer a chilling parallel with iconic scenes in Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war, arguably America’s greatest humiliation overseas.
In spite of the magnitude of events in Afghanistan, where Harry himself served, the prince felt it necessary to stay out of the politics this time.