British Prince secretly visits Afghanistan troops

LONDON: British Prince William has made a secret visit to meet British troops in Afghanistan. The prince, 25, who received his RAF pilot’s wings earlier this month, flew a military transport plane for part of the journey from the UK to Kandahar. He spent three hours with UK service personnel at the airfield on Monday before returning to the UK.

A Clarence House spokesman said the Prince of Wales and the Queen had given their permission for the confidential trip, which had been a “success”. The prince flew in a C-17 Globemaster plane which left RAF Brize Norton, in Oxfordshire, on Sunday and reached Afghanistan the following day.

A Clarence House spokesman said: “The purpose of the trip was for the prince to familiarise himself with the operations of the RAF in theatre.” He said the whole trip had taken about 30 hours and “passed without a hitch”. After leaving Afghanistan, William, who is second in line to the throne, flew on to Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.

Earlier this year, Prince William’s younger brother Harry was serving on the front line in Afghanistan but his tour of duty was cut short after a media blackout broke down. When details of his deployment leaked, it led to fears Harry would be targeted by the Taleban and he was returned to the UK having served for 10 weeks.

Prince William is coming towards the end of four months of training with the RAF, where he is known as Flying Officer Wales. The attachment is designed to teach him about the force’s ethos, military role and traditions and prepare him for the day when he is head of the armed forces. Earlier this month, he was presented with his RAF pilot’s wings by his father, Prince Charles, at a graduation ceremony.

In June, he will begin a new attachment with the Royal Navy. Publicist Max Clifford said the Afghanistan trip had been “a good public relations exercise”. It follows recent criticism of Prince William when it emerged he had used a military helicopter to land near his girlfriend’s home and to go to a stag do on the Isle of Wight. -SANA

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Rubab Saleem

Rubab Saleem is Editor of Pakistan Times

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