Two Marine Generals Ousted Over 2012 Attack in Afghanistan
By JULIAN E. BARNES
WASHINGTON—The Marine Corps commandant on Monday ordered two high-ranking generals to leave the service as a result of their failure to put in place adequate defenses at a key base in Afghanistan, a rare instance of the military punishing senior officers for wartime lapses.
In an attack last year on Camp Bastion, a joint U.S-British and Afghan base in Helmand province in Afghanistan, 15 insurgents killed two Marines, wounded eight other Americans and eight British troops. The attackers also destroyed six Harrier fighter jets and damaged other aircraft.
The attack led Gen. James Amos, the Marine commandant, to request the retirement of the two major generals. It was considered an unusual step even for Gen. Amos, who has been particularly aggressive about pushing officers out of command if their performance has been found lacking.
“Commandership is a sacred responsibility, and standards for general officers are necessarily high,” Gen. Amos said in a meeting with reporters. “In their duty to protect our forces, these two generals did not meet that standard.”
Other senior officers who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have retired in the aftermath of questions surrounding insurgent attacks. But those retirements generally came after senators blocked their confirmation for promotion, not as a result of a public reprimand by top military leaders.
One of the officers, Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, the former top commander in Helmand province, had been nominated for a third star and a top job on the Marine Corps staff. Gen. Gurganus’s nomination had been on hold, and will now be withdrawn. The second, Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, who commanded the Marine aviation arm, is currently serving on the staff of the Pacific Command.
The investigation by U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in Afghanistan, determined that the insurgents cut a hole in a fence near an unmanned guard tower on Sept. 14, 2012, then snuck into the base. The insurgents were able to roll grenades under fighter planes, badly heavily damaging the Harriers, according to the investigation report, which said destroying aircraft was the primary objective of the attackers. (more…)