A Camp Bastion Mom's Call of Duty
The families of two slain Marines from Camp Bastion finally got some answers this week. But their battle for full accountability in the 9/14/12 Taliban attack is far from over. Two top U.S. military leaders will get early retirement and full pensions for their fatal negligence.
But one American mom wants to know: What about the British? And what about the rest of our troops on vulnerable coalition-run bases around the world?
On Monday, U.S. commandant of the Marine Corps James Amos announced the "firing" of two generals for failing to plan and protect our troops adequately against the Taliban raid on Camp Bastion. The base is a British-run NATO compound that adjoins our Marines' Camp Leatherneck. Prince Harry, a ripe al-Qaida target, was serving at the sprawling complex at the time of the attack.
The infiltration of 15 jihadists disguised in U.S. combat fatigues took place three days after last year's 9/11 attack on our Benghazi consulate. The Camp Bastion attack came exactly six months after a failed suicide bombing that targeted then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. The meticulously coordinated siege resulted in two deaths and the most devastating loss of U.S. airpower since Vietnam.
Let's be clear. "Firing" actually means forced resignations and full benefits at rank for Maj. Gen. Charles "Mark" Gurganus, commander of Regional Command Southwest in Afghanistan, and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, commander of the Marines' aviation wing in the region. Amos concluded: "In their duty to protect their forces these two generals did not meet" the exacting standards of judgment expected of them.
That's exactly what Camp Bastion families have alleged since they discovered gross security lapses at the base over the past year. As I've reported over the past year, two heroic U.S. Marines — Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell — gave their lives in the bloody battle last year, and nearly a dozen others were injured. When officials tried to cover it up, the families pressed their case on Capitol Hill and to the public. They had learned on their own that their loved ones were left vulnerable to attack by joint military leaders who outsourced watchtower security on the base to soldiers from Tonga.
The Amos report confirmed all of that and more. British commanders knew the airfield was insecure before 9/14/12. Leaders on both sides of the pond failed to coordinate their defenses. Three months before the raid, the report acknowledged, military officials had been warned of "uncontrolled access" that left "personnel and equipment exposed."
Kim Raible, mother of Lt. Col. Chris Raible, recounted to me what Amos told her husband when they met at Dover Air Force Base to receive their son's body last year. It was quite a different tune. "(M)y husband, nearly nose to nose with General Amos, told him that the lack of security caused our son's death. He was outraged by the statement and assured us both that when all investigations are completed we will find that this was not the case."
The Amos report has now vindicated the families, and two generals are on their way out. But Kim Raible, inspired by her son's lifelong example of valor and courage, isn't going to let the incident rest. She is concerned about the conditions at all jointly run coalition bases and the safety of her son's peers around the world.
"As I was briefed on the report, my main question was: "Where is the investigation from the British?" Mrs. Raible shared with friends and family on Facebook that "my son had given a report on his concerns for poor security that existed." She was told she "could not see the report." Mrs. Raible believes that "NO ONE is looking, for political or diplomatic reasons, at the Brits who are ultimately responsible for this tragedy. The Brits have laid so low in all this it is ridiculous. Personally, for a year, I have not had the strength to take this on until now. I want to hear from the Brits."
The proud American mom issued her own call of duty: "Sending our men and women to bases around the world and not making security our number one priority is (i)ncomprehensible. ... My son had expressed his security concerns with a very long and detailed report but still paid with his life. I am demanding that this be exposed and addressed by our government and military.
"I want an investigation into security of all coalition bases. I want our men and women that serve to be able to rest, sleep and believe that we are doing everything to keep them safe when they are called upon to sacrifice so much away from home."
Indeed. The Amos report has been forwarded to the Brits. But where is our commander in chief's demand for a full after-action review by our allies? The families of the Camp Bastion heroes deserve no less.