Prince unlikely to return to fray for at least 18 months, British Army chief say.
Prince Harry, pulled out of a 10-week tour of duty in Afghanistan for security reasons, wants a swift return to the frontline, he said an interview published Sunday, insisting he is not a hero.
But as the 23-year-old spent his first night on British soil since mid-December, the head of the British Army dealt his ambitions an immediate blow, saying he was unlikely to return to the fray in the near future.
Harry, third in line to the throne and a second lieutenant in the Blues and Royals regiment of the Household Cavalry, was met by his father, Prince Charles, and elder brother, Prince William, at a British air base Saturday.
The young prince said he was "slightly disappointed" about having to come home early, after a US website broke an embargo agreed between British media and the Defence Ministry not to publish his whereabouts for security reasons.
And he said he was now waiting to hear from his superiors about his future role but was still keen to rejoin his regimental colleagues.
"As far as I see it, yeah, I would love to go back and I've already mentioned it [to my commanding officer] that I want to go out very, very soon," he added.
But Chief of the General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt said while Harry's ambitions and enthusiasm were understandable, he could not see that happening for at least 18 months.
"He's just had a deployment, we wouldn't expect to send any young officer in the normal course of events who has just had - albeit 10 weeks and that quite quickly - for another tour," he said.
"So, actually the immediate prospect of Prince Harry going anywhere else is some way off in the future. It actually is hypothetical for the next 12 or 18 months whether he would or wouldn't deploy again."
In interviews soon after his return, Harry spoke matter-of-factly about his work calling in air strikes, patrolling and firing at insurgents in Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan.
"You do what you have to do, what's necessary to save your own guys. If you need to drop a bomb, worst case scenario then you will, but then that's just the way it is," he said.
"It's not nice to drop bombs... but to save lives that's what happens."
But he rejected the tag of "hero", amid fulsome praise for his work from British political and military leaders and the media.
"I wouldn't say I'm a hero at all. I'm no more a hero than anyone else. If you think about it there's thousands and thousands of troops out there," he said.
Two unconscious, badly injured soldiers - one of whom lost an arm and a leg to a landmine - were on his plane home, he told reporters.
"Those are the heroes," he said.
He also said that during his time at an operating base just 500 metres from Taliban positions, he felt secure because there was "no place safer" to be than in the presence of Gurkhas.
"Everyone is really well looked after here by the Gurkhas, the food is fantastic - goat curries, chicken curries... it's really good fun," he added.
In interviews carried out with British media in Afghanistan, Harry raised the possibility that William, 25, could be deployed, although that would go against a royal precedent for not sending the future king into battle.
The Sun newspaper on Saturday claimed that William - an army officer who recently began training as a Royal Air Force pilot - would serve with the Royal Navy in one of the world's troublespots later this year.
The Defence Ministry refused to comment, and Dannatt also refused to be drawn.
Britain has some 7,800 troops in Afghanistan as part of the 40-nation Nato-led coalition. Most are based in Helmand, where fighting against Taliban insurgents has been among the fiercest.
Harry raised concerns that Britain's mission there - and in Iraq, where Britain maintains a 4,100-strong presence near the southern port city of Basra - was misunderstood and under-reported.
Dannatt agreed, but said if anything, the blanket media coverage of Harry's deployment could help inform the public better about their aims.