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Prince Charles Makes Surprise Afghan Visit

Updated at 12:48 p.m. ET

Britain's Prince Charles made an unannounced visit Thursday to Afghanistan, where he visited the Taliban-infested southern province where his youngest son, Harry, served for 10 weeks until his secret deployment was leaked to the media.

Charles, wearing military fatigues, recalled how much he worried about Harry when he was in Helmand province and sympathized with the families of other British soldiers serving in the country.

"For the families, I know when my youngest son was out here, as a parent you worry the whole time," Charles told reporters after laying a wreath of paper poppies and white carnations for the fallen at the largest British base in Helmand.

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Charles said troops can keep themselves busy in the field, but for the relatives left behind, it's "ghastly."

Britain has lost 276 troops since the war began in 2001, second only to the United States. British soldiers have mainly been tasked with battling the Taliban in Helmand, the center of Afghanistan's illegal narcotics trade that has financed the militant group.

Harry participated in that battle in 2007 and 2008, calling in airstrikes and setting off on foot patrols from an isolated outpost near the war-ravaged village of Garmsir, some 100 miles west of the former Taliban capital of Kandahar.

The prince's secret tour of duty was abruptly aborted after a magazine and Web sites disclosed details of his whereabouts.

More recently, British troops participated in a major operation to retake the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Helmand — the largest offensive since the U.S. and NATO committed an additional 40,000 troops to Afghanistan at the end of 2009.

Charles expressed his support for British troops during his one-day visit, which was praised by the soldiers.

"I think it is good for the guys who have been on the ground for a full 6 months," said Sgt. Maj. Guy Harris of the 2nd Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment. "It's good that they know there are people who are interested in what they are doing. It is like the welfare parcels they get from back home."

Charles also visited with local leaders in the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, sitting crossed-legged on a cushion as he talked about the situation in Helmand.

"The prince had a lot of interest in the integrated development program" for Helmand province in the wake of the Marjah offensive," said Jalani Popal, the general director of Afghanistan's Independent Directorate of Local Governance. "Its focus was on bringing meaningful life and jobs."

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