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article image2 US Marine generals 'fired' for failure to protect Afghan base

By Ken Hanly     Oct 1, 2013 in World
Kabul - In a rare move, two US Marine Corps generals who oversaw operations in a southwest area of Afghanistan were forced to retire for not adequately protecting troops and equipment under their supervision.
Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos asked Major General Charles Gurganus and Major General Gregg Sturdevant to retire, holding the two officers responsible for the failure to thwart a September 2012 attack on a base in Helmand province that killed two marines and wounded eight others. This is the first time since the Vietnam War that a US Marine, Army, or Air Force general has been forced from their position for negligence during an enemy attack.
About 15 Taliban insurgents launched the attack on Camp Bastion, the main British base in Afghanistan located next to the Marine's Camp Leatherneck. The insurgents were able to destroy six Harrier AV-8B jets creating the largest material loss of the Afghan war. Amos ordered the investigation in May. Earlier there had been reports about the attack that may have prompted the investigation.
In April, the Washington Post published an article noting problems with security. The top US commander at the base did not order any investigation into the security lapses or sanction any of those who were guarding the facility officials told the Post. Following the raid some US and NATO military leaders insisted that the Taliban simply got lucky by choosing to breach where they did. Actually, the Taliban had been casing the base for quite a while before the attack
Other officials said that staffing decisions by both US and British commanders had weakened the base defenses. The adjacent Marine base does not have a runway so US Marines use the runway at Camp Bastion and the Marine jets were there. Insurgents destroyed almost the entire squadron with grenades at a cost of about $200 million.
Amos said that Gurganus and Sturdevant “did not take adequate force protection measures within the range of responses proportionate to the threat,” Gurganus had been nominated for promotion to a three-star lieutenant general rank but Amos asked that the promotion on hold in the US Senate be rescinded. He also asked that Sturdevant be issued a letter of censure. Amos noted that the US-UK security system was "sub-optimal" with no single officer in charge of security for both bases.
The British had assigned the manning of watchtowers that ring the base to troops from Tonga which had 55 soldiers in Afghanistan. However, on the night of the attack, the tower nearest to where the Taliban made the breach was unmanned and they could not be seen from the other towers. The withdrawal of some forces had led to regular Marine patrols of areas near the perimeter to cease, and the Taliban were able to camp with locals and collect intelligence on the base.
Prince Harry was at the camp at the time of the attack. Although Taliban propagandists said they intended to find and assassinate him, apparently they did not get near the area where he was at the time.
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