Two U.S. generals ousted over failure to secure Afghan base

WASHINGTON Mon Sep 30, 2013 9:25pm EDT

1 of 3. A combination photo shows U.S. Marine Corps Major General Gregg A. Sturdevant (R) in Afghanistan on November 22, 2012 and Major General Charles Gurganus in Iraq on May 13, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Sabah Arar/Pool/Files (left image) and Sgt. Keonaona C. Paulo/U.S. Marine Corps/Handout via Reuters

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Marine Corps on Monday effectively fired two U.S. generals over their failure to defend a major base in Afghanistan from a deadly Taliban attack last year, in an extraordinary and rare public censure.

Two Marines were killed and eight personnel were wounded when Taliban insurgents breached what a military investigation determined was inadequate security at Camp Bastion, in southern Afghanistan's Helmand province.

A four-month investigation concluded that Major General Charles Gurganus, the top Marine commander in the region at the time, and Major General Gregg Sturdevant "did not take adequate force protection measures within the range of responses proportionate to the threat," the Marine Corps said.

Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos asked both men to retire on Monday, speaking personally with Gurganus at the Pentagon and by video-conference with Sturdevant, who was abroad, one Marine Corps official told Reuters.

Both men accepted that request, the official said. U.S. officials could not recall any similar top-level firings in the 12-year-old Afghan war over failure to properly defend a base.

"Every Marine commander must properly position his command and his Marines to both successfully accomplish the mission and defend itself in any clime and place," Amos wrote in endorsing the findings of the investigation by the U.S. military's Central Command.

"We owe this duty to the courageous Marines like Lt. Col. (Christopher) Raible and Sgt. (Bradley) Atwell, who so faithfully served our Corps" and died in the attack, he wrote.

Beyond the loss of life, the Taliban also caused millions of dollars in damage, destroying six Marine AV-8B Harrier jets during a large-scale Taliban attack including use of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.

The Central Command review concluded that Gurganus "made an error in judgment when conducting his risk assessment of the enemy's capabilities and intentions."

Sturdevant, who commanded the aviation arm of the Marine force, also did not adequately assess security at Bastion Airfield, the Marines said.

Gurganus had been awaiting Senate confirmation to promotion to the rank of lieutenant general. Amos has recommended that nomination be rescinded and that Sturdevant receive a letter of censure from the secretary of the Navy.

Central Command declined to discuss the results of its investigation until after family were notified.

Camp Bastion is a British-run air base that is connected to the U.S.-run Camp Leatherneck, which serves as the headquarters for the NATO-led mission in southwestern Afghanistan.

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Eric Beech and Eric Walsh)

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Comments (5)
Larome wrote:
Not being privileged to the facts I will accept this judgment, until or unless the facts presented are changed. Just am curious how two Generals could fail to defend a base. I am suspicious of these firings. Not impossible for someone to reach the level of a combat general and fail their responsibilities. Just does not seem probable to me. I would like to learn more.

Now as a side issue, I’m thinking that for a month we put this General that fired folks that failed to provide adequate security to the base, over the folks we elected and others that fail to protect the borders of the United States. And he can fire them also.

Sep 30, 2013 11:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
MDJim wrote:
It would certainly be nice if the politicians involved in the Benghazi fiasco were disciplined proportionately. But the military takes action when someone in charge allegedly errs in judgment. Government people in charge who make a mistake that results in loss of American lives that is another matter. They are either promoted, assigned elsewhere, retired or granted a presidential pardon. Justice for all would be miracle in the current political climate.

Oct 01, 2013 10:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Lemming wrote:
Probably good soldiers and sold out by those who never seen combat… (my two coppers)

Oct 01, 2013 11:14am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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