WASHINGTON, Oct 1 – The commandant of the US Marine Corps on Monday sacked two generals in the wake of a deadly attack last year by the Taliban on a major NATO base in Afghanistan.
The extraordinary decision came after a military investigation found Major General Charles Gurganus and Major General Gregg Sturdevant failed to take sufficient action to safeguard the base from a possible assault by insurgents, the Marine Corps said in a statement.
It was the first time an American general had been fired over battlefield negligence since the Vietnam War, officials said.
The September 14-15 assault on Camp Bastion in southern Afghanistan was one of the most brazen ever pulled off by Taliban insurgents. Two Marines were killed, eight others wounded and six AV-8B Harrier fighter jets destroyed.
Endorsing the probe’s findings, General James Amos, chief of the Marine Corps, wrote that while he was aware of the challenges faced by the Marines due to a troop withdrawal in Afghanistan, it was his duty “to remain true to the timeless axioms” that define a commander’s task.
“Responsibility and accountability are the sacred tenets of Commandership.”
Amos asked both officers to retire, the statement said. He also recommended to the Navy secretary that Gurganus’s nomination for promotion to the rank of Lieutenant General be rescinded and that Sturdevant receive a letter of censure.
Amos said he agonized over meting out discipline to officers whom he considered to be friends.
“This is the hardest decision I’ve had to make as commandant of the Marine Corps,” Amos said.
Amos said Gurganus, who had overall command of the base as head of Regional Command Southwest, bore “final accountability for the lives and equipment under his charge.”
According to Amos, the general “made an error in judgment when conducting his risk assessment of the enemy’s capabilities and intentions” towards the base, which included the British-run airfield at Bastion and a Marine installation, Camp Leatherneck.
Amos concluded that Sturdevant, who oversaw the aviation arm of the Marine force at the base, failed to “adequately assess the force protection situation” at Bastion and had responsibility to add his own security forces to the British contingent guarding the airfield if necessary.
“Marines can never place complete reliance for their own safety in the hands of another force,” Amos wrote.
In arriving at his decision, Amos “acknowledged the inherent risks of combat and the challenges faced by both commanders in striking the proper balance between aggressively pursuing the enemy and safeguarding their forces.”