Prince William's Afghanistan visit gets mixed response
Thursday, 01 May 2008

Prince William's visit to meet troops in Afghanistan this weekend drew a mixed response Wednesday, with some condemning it as a public relations exercise and others praising the future king, reports agency.

The 25-year-old, who is second-in-line to the throne, spent about three hours on the ground at Kandahar airfield on Monday, meeting personnel and being briefed on operations before returning to Britain, the royal household said.

A spokesman said the trip was designed to help the young royal familiarise himself with Royal Air Force operations in theatre. William, a trained army officer, has been on a four-month attachment with the RAF.

But Ken Wharfe, a former royal protection officer, suggested the flying visit may have been organised to divert attention from negative headlines in recent weeks.

William -- who received his pilot's "wings" from his father, Prince Charles, last month -- was criticised for flying military helicopters to attend a bachelor party and landing at his girlfriend Kate Middleton's family home.

"There is an element of risk but there would be no way security officials would allow it to happen," Wharfe said. "It would be pretty well sterile while he was there. "I'm slightly sceptical about this. I think the cynics amongst us will say it's an attempt to cover up the Chinook jollies."

Leading British publicist Max Clifford also said the trip -- nearly two months after William's younger brother, Harry, returned from a 10-week tour of duty in Afghanistan -- had been "a good public relations exercise". "Certainly this will get them some good headlines, I imagine," he told BBC television.

There was a mixed response, too, on the ARmy Rumour SErvice -- or ARRSE -- a popular Internet forum for members of the British military. "Smells like a PR operation to me," wrote one poster, named "Devil Dog".

"Good for PR, I think", wrote "redgrain", while "OldTimer" added: "He spent THREE HOURS there, at a time when there is a shortage of kit just what did this little PR exercise cost the British tax payer?????"

But "mediumwhiteamericano" disagreed: "it's not about PR; it's all about actually being there, showing the troops that the future King and Head of the Armed Forces cares about the work going on... "Regardless of the time he spent there, it made a difference."

And "mick4075" added: "PR stunt?I don't think so, more a demonstration of actually giving a sh*t unlike the majority of people in the ivory towers.I mean, its not like we're going to vote him King!"

Like his brother's tour, which attracted similar criticisms but wide praise, William's visit was a closely-guarded secret for security reasons but is a sign he is preparing for his future role as monarch and head of the military.

He is due to take up another attachment with the Royal Navy at the start of June. There have been reports, unconfirmed by either the defence ministry

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