The commandant of the US Marine Corps on Monday fired 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 US Marine Corps said in a statement.
It was the first time a US general had been fired over battlefield negligence since the Vietnam War, officials said.
The Sept. 14 to Sept. 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, Marine Corps Commandant General James Amos 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,” he wrote.
Amos asked both officers to retire, the statement said. He also recommended to the US secretary of the navy that Gurganus’s nomination for promotion to lieutenant general be rescinded and that Sturdevant receive a letter of censure.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.”
Amos said the general “made an error in judgment when conducting his risk assessment of the enemy’s capabilities and intentions” toward the base, which included a British-run airfield and a US marine installation.
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 the 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.
Amos found that the commanders “did not exercise the level of judgment expected of general officers” and had to be held accountable.
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