Prince Harry Heads Home From War Zone

Prince Harry Heads Home From War Zone
Prince Harry
John Stillwell/AP

02/29/2008 AT 07:00 AM EST

Prince Harry has been pulled out of Afghanistan by British army chiefs and is heading home, PEOPLE has confirmed.

His position as a frontline soldier became untenable once the news broke Thursday that he had been secretly fighting against the Taliban since before Christmas.

"Following a detailed assessment of the risks by the operational chain of command, the decision has been taken ... to withdraw Prince Harry from Afghanistan immediately," the Ministry of Defense confirmed in a statement. "This decision has been taken primarily on the basis that the worldwide media coverage of Prince Harry in Afghanistan could impact on the security of those who are deployed there, as well as the risks to him as an individual soldier."

Planned to Stay Until April

The 23-year-old – who is a second lieutenant in the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry – had been scheduled to stay on the front lines in the country until April. But "the situation has now clearly changed," the statement continues, calling the news leak by some foreign media outlets "regrettable."

The decision is likely a major disappointment for the prince, who has said in a series of interviews that he was relishing the opportunity to put his training into action.

"[I] finally get the chance to actually do the soldiering I wanted to do from ever since I joined," he told reporters, including the U.K.'s Press Association. Of his late mother, Diana, he added, "Hopefully she would be proud."

Harry's performance had been called "exemplary" by the British army head. "He has been fully involved in operations and has run the same risks as everyone else in his Battlegroup," said the chief of general staff, General Sir Richard Dannatt. "He is a credit to the nation."

It is not known when Prince Harry is due back in the U.K.

Video courtesy AP"
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