Two Marine generals forced out over deadly Afghanistan attack

McClatchy Washington BureauSeptember 30, 2013 

— The Marine Corps commandant said Monday that he ousted two top generals for failing to protect a U.S.-British base in Afghanistan from a rebel attack last year that killed two Americans, wounded 16 other troops and destroyed six military aircraft.

The decision by Gen. James F. Amos, top commander of the Marines, was an unusual example of senior U.S. military officers losing their jobs for mistakes made during a war.

Amos cited Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant for major lapses in judgment in ordering them to retire for their roles in the Sept. 15, 2012, assault on Camp Bastion in the embattled Helmand province of Afghanistan.

“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,” Amos wrote in a statement.

In the nighttime four-hour attack, 15 heavily armed Taliban insurgents wearing U.S. Army uniforms used wire cutters to breach a fence. They destroyed six Harrier attack jets and damaged more than a half-dozen other aircraft.

Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, commander of the Harrier squadron, and Sgt. Bradley Atwell were killed during the assault. Raible fought the rebels armed with only his pistol. The insurgents carried guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

In making his decision, Amos accepted the findings of a four-month investigation by the U.S. Central Command, which oversees American troops in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

The probe found that patrols outside the base had been reduced and a guard tower overlooking the area where the insurgents cut through the fence was unmanned.

British news media reported that Prince Harry, a Harrier jet pilot who was on the base at the time, was a target of the attack. His birthday is Sept. 15, the date of the assault.

Amos recommended to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus that Gurganus’ promotion to the rank of lieutenant general be rescinded and that Sturdevant receive a Navy Letter of Censure.

Email: jrosen@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @jamesmartinrose

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