Uncovering the Camp Bastion Cover-Up

pict65All it takes is one crack for a stone wall to start crumbling. Nine months after the deadly 9/14 raid on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, the families of two fallen Marines may finally get some answers. Real accountability, of course, is another story.

A formal internal investigation into lax security at the base — a British-run NATO compound that adjoins our Marines’ Camp Leatherneck — is now under way. A few members of Congress are putting pressure on the administration for the truth. And a couple of mainstream reporters are digging deeper.

More, please. And faster. Camp Bastion belongs in the bloody scandal lexicon with Benghazi and Fast and Furious. This trio of national security disasters under the Obama administration didn’t just involve run-of-the-mill corruption and cover-ups. It cost American lives.

As I’ve been reporting in a series of columns and blog posts over the past year, the Taliban waged an intricately coordinated, brutal attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan last fall — three days after the deadly siege on our consulate in Libya and after months of prior security incidents and warnings. Fifteen jihadists disguised in stolen American combat fatigues penetrated the complex. They used rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and other weapons to wipe out nearly an entire squadron of Marine Harrier jets worth an estimated $200 million.

Along with the most devastating loss of U.S. airpower since Vietnam, two heroic U.S. Marines — Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell — were killed in the battle, and nearly a dozen others were injured. Military officials refused to release details of the fateful budget and strategy decisions that led to the attack. But Deborah Hatheway, aunt of Sgt. Atwell and the family’s spokesperson, and other Camp Bastion families learned on their own that their loved ones were left vulnerable to attack by military leaders who outsourced watchtower security on the base to soldiers from Tonga.

The neglect of security at Bastion was widely known. Nick Francona, a former Marine Corps Ground Intelligence Officer with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, who served as a Scout Sniper Platoon Commander in Helmand Province in 2011, recounted on Foreign Policy magazine’s The Best Defense blog in April: “It was obvious to even a casual observer that many of the posts were unmanned and were comically left with a ‘green Ivan’ silhouette target as a halfhearted attempt at deterrence.”

Francona added: “The attack only occurred because of an egregious failure in basic infantry practices.

… It is painfully obvious that this attack would not have been successful, or likely even attempted, if not for multiple security failures at Leatherneck/Bastion.”

The families zeroed in on Maj. Gen. Charles “Mark” Gurganus, who recently returned to the U.S. after commanding coalition forces in Afghanistan, as the man responsible for shortchanging security at Bastion. Gurganus was the same one who ordered Marines to disarm — immediately after a failed jihadi attack on then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last year — because he wanted them “to look just like our (unarmed) Afghan partners.”

The Camp Bastion families are not the only ones scrutinizing Gurganus’ decisions. A few weeks ago, Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran reported that the U.S. military has finally launched a formal probe into whether Gurganus and his subordinates bear responsibility for lax security at Bastion. A planned promotion for Gurganus has been put on hold.

Chandrasekaran confirmed that watchtowers were indeed left to Tongans (notorious at the base for sleeping on the job). In addition, reports Chandrasekaran, “Security patrols of the perimeter, which were conducted by the Marines … had been scaled back substantially in the months leading up to the attack.” Simply blaming the Tongans, however, is not accountability. U.S. staff decisions “made it easier for the Taliban to reconnoiter the compound and then enter without resistance,” according to Chadrasekaran’s sources with direct knowledge of the incident.

While U.S. Central Command investigates, there is now movement on Capitol Hill to help Camp Bastion families whose information requests have been stymied. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., has written Marine/CENTCOM leadership on behalf of the victims’ families. (Sgt. Atwell and his family are from Indiana.) Rokita told me in a statement this week: “This is about transparency and accountability. I want to make sure that Sgt. Atwell’s family, Lt. Col. Raible’s family and the American people get the full truth about the Camp Bastion attack.”

It’s a start. But as with Benghazi and Fast and Furious, getting the truth about Camp Bastion is only half the battle. Truth without consequences is a recipe for more dead Americans.

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  • American1969

    Hm. Yet another scandal. How odd.

  • objectivefactsmatter

    “…Maj. Gen. Charles “Mark” Gurganus, who recently returned to the U.S. after commanding coalition forces in Afghanistan, as the man responsible for shortchanging security at Bastion. Gurganus was the same one who ordered Marines to disarm — immediately after a failed jihadi attack on then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last year — because he wanted them “to look just like our (unarmed) Afghan partners.””

    It’s all just theater for leftists.

  • objectivefactsmatter

    “A planned promotion for Gurganus has been put on hold.”

    No doubt he’ll end up working for Homeland Security on the new border control protocols. Unarmed mannequins will be stationed at key points along our borders.

  • Adam

    This is in the same category as the green on blue attacks, our soldiers are being killed by political correctness and incompetence. This commander is one of the many traitors in the Obama administration.

  • SoCalMike

    Treason is the current centerpiece of American foreign policy.
    From the policy of turning the Middle East over to the Muslim Brotherhood, to arming jihadis in Libya who repaid Obama by murdering our ambassador and his security team to the so called green on blue attacks.
    Thr first thing Obama did upon entering office was release the US military enhanced interrogation manual to Islamic Jihad and AQ through the NY Times whose staff traitors were only toi pleased to publish.
    Didn’t John McCain, Marco Rubio and a couple of other Repubes show up ib Lybia to applaude and pose for photo ops?
    Beyond disgusting at every level.

  • ltcdmward

    In 1971-72 I was with an Infantry Company that protected the world’s largest ammunition depot at Long Binh in Vietnam. The perimeter we protected was almost two miles in length. The last time the perimeter was penetrated was during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Just prior to me rotating out, there was talk that American Soldiers would be replaced in the bunkers and towers along the perimeter. Their replacements: Montangard tribesmen. While a “peace treaty” was eventually signed less than a year later and U.S. troops were mostly withdrawn, I found out that one year after I rotated in 1972 the depot was penetrated in 1973.


    And let’s not forget that the people who waged this attack, a clear act of war, are the same Taliban that Barry Hussein now wants to negotiate with. A better man would have insisted on annihilating the Taliban in Afghanistan, but that would interfere with either the vain attempts at nation-building Obama has pursued up to now, or the surrender he apparently intends to offer.

  • donqpublic

    Generals are expendable, but Secretaries of State no.

  • http://www.americarepublicspring.com/ Marvin E. Fox

    A fish rots from the head. The investigation must expose the rot of the head.
    Marvin Fox

  • WW4

    Oh, Michelle and her doofus readers slobbering and salivating over another “scandal!”

    So this one belongs in the same lexicon as the other scandals? So, in other words, it’s a non-starter? It’s going nowhere?

    Good luck trying to fluff up yet another cynical scandal!