WASHINGTON — The military has completed the investigation into an attack last year in Afghanistan that led to the deaths of two Marines and the destruction of six attack aircraft.
The report has been turned over to the Marine Corps commandant, Gen. James Amos, who requested the investigation in order to get a clearer picture of what occurred and assess accountability, according to the Marine Corps.
The attack on Camp Bastion on Sept. 14, 2012, constituted a major security breach on a well-defended military compound. It was one of the most brazen attacks on a military compound in the past decade of wars.
In May, Amos had requested a more thorough review because earlier investigations did not sufficiently address commander accountability, the statement said. The investigation was conduced by Central Command, which oversees U.S. operations in the Middle East.
Amos has made accountability for leaders a hallmark of his tenure at the top of the corps. At least six commanders have been relieved this year and Amos has spoken frequently of the importance of holding leaders responsible for what happens in their units.
“This heartbreaking loss continues to remind me of the sacrifices our Marines, sailors and families make in protecting our freedom,” Amos said in a statement. “It is also a reminder of the very high standards our Marine commanders must meet, particularly in combat.”
Amos will examine the report before deciding whether to make any personnel recommendations.
Marine Maj. Gen. Charles “Mark” Gurganus was the senior leader in Helmand province at the time of the attack. His promotion to a third star was placed on hold pending the completion of the Central Command investigation.
Assessing accountability is complicated by the fact that Camp Bastion is the British portion of the compound.
The attack was as brazen as it was thoroughly planned.
The insurgents used bolt cutters to cut through a fence on the perimeter of the base and then silently split into three five-man teams, using a dry stream bed to creep toward the flight line on a moonless night. Dressed in U.S. military uniforms they were armed with assault rifles, rocket propelled grenades and machine guns.
They attacked simultaneously about 10 p.m., using surprise to assault the flight line where they they completely destroyed six AV-8B Harrier jets , which cost about $24 million each. Flames from three burning fuel bladders shot into the darkened sky.
More than 100 servicemen responded to the attack, triggering a firefight that lasted four hours. Marines launched helicopter gunships to support ground troops on the ground, pouring withering fire onto insurgents who were huddled behind a concrete barrier.
One of the Marines killed in the attack was the Harrier squadron commander, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, 40, who charged at the insurgents armed only with his sidearm. Sgt. Bradley Atwell, 27, was also killed in the attack.
All but one of the 15 insurgents was killed in the counterattack. The surviving insurgent was taken into custody and was questioned.
In an interview a couple months after the attack Gurganus said the attack was well planned.
“It was months in the planning,” Gurganus said. “This was not a bunch of local yahoos who were just thrown together and said, ‘Hey let’s go attack Camp Bastion.'”