U.K. Complacency Allowed U.S. Deaths at Base, Panel Says

Inadequate defenses and high-level complacency in the British Army led to the success of a 2012 Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, resulting in the deaths of U.S. Marines, a panel of U.K. lawmakers said.

Fifteen heavily armed Taliban insurgents infiltrated the base in September 2012 and attacked the airfield. In the ensuing battle, two Marines died and eight U.S. and eight U.K. personnel were wounded alongside a civilian.

Insufficient attention was given to the fundamental requirement of defending the camp from external assault, Parliament’s cross-party Defence Committee said in a report published in London today. The panel said it “believes that this was complacent.”

“Given that the attack took place in the British sector of the camp, British commanders must bear a degree of responsibility for these systemic failures and associated reputational damage,” the panel said. It said it’s satisfied military commanders have now addressed vulnerabilities that led to the attack.

Six U.S. Harrier jets were destroyed in the attack. Fourteen of the Taliban were killed, with one captured and interrogated.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said in a statement his ministry “is not complacent and always seeks to capture and learn lessons from current operations. Commanders in the field have to prioritize resources against potential threats in theater, and at the time a threat to Camp Bastion was considered to be lower” than at other locations in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

Last year, two Marine Corps generals who oversaw military operations in southwest Afghanistan were forced to retire for inadequately protecting troops and military equipment under their supervision. It was 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.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kitty Donaldson in London at kdonaldson1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alan Crawford at acrawford6@bloomberg.net Eddie Buckle, Thomas Penny

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