Two U.S. Marine Corps generals who oversaw military operations in southwest Afghanistan last year have been forced to retire for inadequately protecting troops and military equipment under their supervision.
Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos asked Major General Charles Gurganus and Major General Gregg Sturdevant to retire, holding the two officers responsible for the failure to thwart a September 2012 attack on a base in Helmand province that killed Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Raible and Sergeant Bradley Atwell and wounded eight others.
The moves marked the first time since the Vietnam War that a U.S. Marine, Army or Air Force general was forced out of a job for negligence during an enemy attack, according to a blog for Foreign Policy magazine, which cited Tom Ricks, author of “The Generals,” a military history.
The assault by about 15 insurgents on Camp Bastion, the main British base in Afghanistan located next to the Marines’ Camp Leatherneck, also destroyed a fleet of six Harrier AV-8B aircraft, marking the biggest loss of U.S. materiel in the 12-year conflict. In May, Amos ordered an investigation into the attack and yesterday endorsed the probe’s findings.
Gurganus and Sturdevant “did not take adequate force protection measures within the range of responses proportionate to the threat,” Amos said in a statement released yesterday. While both commanders faced challenges in pursuing the enemy even as the overall U.S. troop levels began to decline in Afghanistan, “my duty requires me to remain true to the timeless axioms relating to command responsibility and accountability.”
Gurganus in a statement through his spokesman said he had “complete trust and confidence in the leadership of our Corps and fully respect the decision of our Commandant.” Sturdevant couldn’t be reached for comment through the Marine Corps spokesman’s office.
Gurganus, as the overall commander for Regional Command Southwest, bore final responsibility for forces and equipment under his command, Amos said.
Britain’s Prince Harry, the fourth in line to the throne, was at the base at the time of the Sept. 14, 2012, assault and Taliban propagandists said the attackers were planning to kill him, the U.K.-based Guardian newspaper reported. The prince served in Helmand province as a gunner in Apache helicopters.
Although the U.S. Marines were located on the British base, Sturdevant, who commanded the Marine aviation unit, remained responsible for his own forces, Amos said. “Marines can never place complete reliance for their own safety in the hands of another force,” Amos said.
Amos wrote to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus asking that Gurganus’s nomination for promotion to a three-star lieutenant general’s rank, which is on hold in the U.S. Senate, be rescinded and that Sturdevant be issued a letter of censure.
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