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Newspaper review: Prince's Afghan tour ends on front pages

Papers

Prince Harry's interview which marked the end of his latest tour of duty in Afghanistan features across many front pages - with a number of papers focusing on the prince's admission that he has killed Taliban fighters.

The Daily Mail describes the prince as matter-of-fact... "thoughtful but unrepentant". The Guardian believes the interviews show him as more at home as an Army captain than as a prince.

For the Sun, his "common touch is remarkable" and he is refreshingly uncomplicated about his mission.

The Daily Express sees it as nonchalance. The Daily Mirror says such a frank admission may shock some people.

But the Daily Telegraph says there are fears that some of his comments could inflame tensions in the region and North Africa.

One former commander tells the paper he is worried that some people will take offence and even exploit the comments to stir up opposition.

Military personnel

The Times leads with a claim that British forces are on alert for an emergency deployment to Mali to support French forces attempting to push back Islamic extremists.

The paper says units from the Army, Royal Navy and RAF are on what it calls "high readiness".

The Ministry of Defence has responded to the report with a statement saying logistical support is being provided to the French, but planning does not include British personnel in a "ground combat role".

The Daily Mail says the UK will be sending spy planes, unmanned drones and special forces to Mali - to find and dismantle the al-Qaeda network behind the attack on a gas field in Algeria.

But the Sun says that senior defence officials want to block the deployment because they believe that forces are already over-stretched.

One source tells the paper if David Cameron wants decades of military confrontation, he will need to resource the armed forces so they can do it.

Wise retreat

There's praise for the prime minister's statement on the terrorist attack in Algeria - and Britain's response.

In its editorial, the Independent admits it was waiting with trepidation after what it calls alarmingly simplistic and shrill earlier pronouncements.

But the paper believes Mr Cameron showed a new and welcome appreciation of the complexity of the situation in North Africa and the paramount need for a collaborative response.

It hopes Mr Cameron will continue to match calls for iron resolve with an insistence on intelligence, politics and patience.

The Guardian is also relieved. It feels David Cameron's gut response on Sunday bore echoes of a more inflammatory era from which he then wisely retreated.

The paper believes the dangers of a response based on attacks by drones are clear: it says the ranks of militants are easily replenished when the fire of the conflict spreads.

Second term

There's widespread coverage of President Obama's inauguration address, which the Guardian describes as a powerful call to action which embraced an unashamedly liberal agenda for his second term in office.

The paper calls it more inspirational than his address four years ago, where he had to dampen unrealistic hopes.

For the Independent's Rupert Cornwell, this was the real Barack Obama not the calculating party politician with an eye on the next election.

In its editorial, the Times believes President Obama's second term should be the moment when he resolves an inner conflict: does he want to act as leader of the free world - or continue to cut a hesitant figure on the world stage.

The Financial Times sees it as an effective and uplifting speech, in which the lofty rhetoric of 2008 has given way to something more realistic.

For the FT, there was a new edge of determination and experience mixed with the old idealism.

The Daily Telegraph agrees there was a sharper political tone - but the paper's US editor, Peter Foster, believes the president's call for unity may go unheeded by half of his country.

He says the crowd that gathered to listen to the speech were "Obama's people" who were there to celebrate, and the uncompromising prescription on offer left conservative forces seething with anger and alienation.

The Daily Mail says it was a rather less infatuated America that watched the swearing-in compared to 2009.

In its editorial, the Mail takes aim at world leaders in general.

Echoing criticism about the dearth of dynamic leadership from the organisers of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the paper says it's hard to recall a time when there was such a sense of drift at the top.

Bouncers

News of a crackdown on tax-dodging among middle-class professionals and tradesmen is the lead in the Daily Express. The paper says Crown lawyers are promising a radical new focus on cheats.

But the paper says there are fears the drive will target the easy-to-catch rather than huge fraud rings or multinationals who minimise their tax.

In its editorial, the paper says ministers are right to investigate tax evasion by the self-employed but they should also get tough with financial fat cats at the top and freeloaders at the bottom.

A barrister explains to the Daily Mail why the tactic is being adopted.

She says the middle market is easier and cheaper to prosecute, attracts more publicity and achieves a lot of deterrence.

The Telegraph has news of a fundraising sing-along for a group of pensioners in Staffordshire which had to be cancelled - because officials insisted the organisers hire bouncers.

Campaigners in Stoke-on-Trent hoped the concert would raise money to help save their community hall. But it seems the cost of the "security" was prohibitive.

The Telegraph reports that organisers were told they would need the bouncers "in case trouble breaks out".

A former caretaker tells the paper: "I don't know what they think might happen in a roomful of pensioners - it's ludicrous".

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