Marine Corps Declassifies Blistering Indictment Of Two Generals Held Responsible After Deadly Taliban Attack

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U.S. Marine Corps Photo / Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans

Gen. James F. Amos, left, the commandant of the Marine Corps, poses for a photo with Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus at Camp Bastion, Helmand province, Afghanistan, in July 2012. Amos has called for Gurganus to be fired following a finding of negligence for a Taliban ambush in September 2012 that claimed two lives.

Following the relief of two generals held responsible in the 2012 attack on Camp Bastion, the Marine Corps has declassified and released the findings of the investigation.

The documents lay out the preparation for the attack and what happened on the night of Sep. 14-15, 2012, and for the two generals held responsible, it's damning. Mentioned in the documents are an incoherent command structure, poor external security, and a number of warning signs.

The attack on a major base in Afghanistan  was devastating, resulting in the deaths of Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell, eight wounded, and six $24 million AV-8B Harrier jets destroyed.

“Whether it be 17,000 or 7,400, the commander still has the inherent responsibility to provide force protection for his or her forces,” Gen. James Amos said upon relieving the two officers. “It’s in our doctrine; it’s in our Marine Corps Warfighting publication … So, regardless of where you are in a drawdown, you’re required to balance protection versus force projection.”

The findings pull no punches against Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, the commanding general of Regional Command Southwest (emphasis added):

MajGen Gurganus maintained overall command responsibility for RC(SW) and knew, or should have known, of the force protection risks at the BLS Complex. He underestimated the threat posed by the enemy’s capabilities, overestimated US and coalition capabilities to counter that threat, and failed to take prudent  steps to counter or mitigate an enemy attack. Further, he failed to achieve the coalition unity of effort necessary to ensure comprehensive protection of the BLS Complex or, alternatively, to take unilateral action to mitigate the risk to an acceptable level. Lastly, MajGen Gurganus failed to adequately provide command direction and oversight to ensure his subordinates took appropriate actions to effectively mitigate the identified vulnerabilities at the Camp Bastion airfield.

The same goes for Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, who commanded the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (emphasis added):

MajGen Sturdevant failed to effectively integrate 3rd MAW(FWD) into the force protection posture for Camp Bastion. He assumed that other units responsible for the protection of the BLS Complex would also protect 3d MAW(FWD) personnel and equipment on the Camp Bastion airfield, without fully understanding the capabilities and limitations of those units. This misjudgment unnecessarily exposed his personnel and equipment to enemy attack on 14-15 September 2012. He also failed to provide adequate command direction and oversight to ensure his subordinates took appropriate actions to mitigate the identified vulnerabilities on the Camp Bastion airfield. Finally, although MajGen Sturdevant appropriately focused his forces on generating aircraft sorties to support ground operations, he failed to simultaneously address the inherent responsibility of commanders at every echelon to provide security and protection for their forces.

The documents continue, citing the failure of both to ensure an integrated defense of the base. In layman's terms, on a base that hosts a number of units and different countries, the men responsible failed to figure out who does what in the event of an attack.

This led to numerous failures, such as having only 11 of the 24 guard towers manned, little to no patrolling of the perimeter fence, and allowing terrain to impede the view of guards in the towers.

The investigation was conducted by Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commanding general of U.S. Central Command.

You can read the full report here.



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