Camp bastion attack: 2 Marine generals sacked
KABUL (PAN): In a rare action, two top US generals have been sacked over their failure to ensure sufficient protection of their troops in southern Afghanistan in 2012, the Marine Corps commandant said late on Monday.
The Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Helmand province, blamed on inadequate security, left two Marines dead and half a dozen US fighter jets destroyed. In the brazen assault in September 2012, almost an entire squadron of Marine AV-8B Harrier jets was ruined.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos forced the two-star generals -- Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant -- into retirement as a result of an investigation into the insurgent strike.
Gurganus was commander of Regional Command-Southwest at the time of the attack, while Sturdevant was Marine aviation commander in the area. The generals had a “sacred responsibility” to ensure effective protection for their troops but Gurganus made errors in assessing the Taliban strength and intentions, the commandant said.
In a statement, the commandant blamed Sturdevant for failing to put in place adequate force protection arrangements at the key British-managed airfield. Amos said: “Marines can never place complete reliance for their own safety in the hands of another force.”
While acknowledging the difficulties the pair of generals faced and extolling their execution of other aspects of the mission in the Taliban's heartland, Amos said responsibility for preparing for such attacks lay with top commanders.
He added: "While I am mindful of the degree of difficulty the Marines in Afghanistan faced in accomplishing a demanding combat mission with a rapidly declining force, my duty requires me to remain true to the timeless axioms relating to command responsibility and accountability."
After being asked by their commandant, both generals agreed to stand down. Amos urged Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to rescind Gurganus’ nomination for promotion as lieutenant general. He told Sturdevant to receive a letter of censure from the secretary.
According to the New York Times, the four-month inquiry found the commanders viewed the greatest risks to the compound as insider attacks by Afghan security forces, car bombs, mortars or rockets -- a view confirmed by Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta's visit to the base.
Just before the secretary's landing at the air field in March 2012, the newspaper recalled, an Afghan interpreter set himself on fire and drove a truck toward a line of officers awaiting Panetta’s arrival.
Although officials initially downplayed the incident, Marine Corps officers later confirmed the group of military dignitaries, including General Gurganus, were almost run over before the vehicle ended in a ditch.
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