Washington: In a rare move, the top Marine on Monday forced two generals into retirement after concluding they should be held to account for failing to secure a base in Afghanistan on which two Marines were killed by Taliban attackers a year ago.
Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said in announcing his decision that Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant "did not take adequate force protection measures" at Camp Bastion, an airfield in southwestern Afghanistan that was the Taliban target.
The Sept. 14, 2012 attack caught the Marines by surprise and resulted in the deaths of Lt. Col. Christopher K. Raible and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell. Six Marine Harrier fighter jets were destroyed by the attackers and others were badly damaged.
Gurganus, who was the top American commander in that region of Afghanistan, did not order a formal investigation after the attack. In June, Amos asked U.S. Central Command to investigate, and he said he decided to take action against the two generals after reviewing the results of that investigation.
"While I am mindful of the degree of difficulty the Marines in Afghanistan faced in accomplishing a demanding combat mission with a rapidly declining force, my duty requires me to remain true to the timeless axioms related relating to command responsibility and accountability," Amos said.
Sturdevant was in charge of Marine aviation in that region of Afghanistan.
Amos asked the two generals to retire and they agreed.
Gurganus, who had referred to the Taliban's penetration of Camp Bastion's supposedly secure perimeter as a "lucky break," had been nominated for promotion to three-star rank; that nomination had been put on hold during the investigation. He will retire as a two-star.
On Monday, after Amos's announcement, Gurganus issued a brief statement saying he felt privileged to have served in the Marine Corps for 37 years. "I will treasure that forever. I have complete trust and confidence in the leadership of our Corps and fully respect the decision of our Commandant."
A request for comment from Sturdevant was not immediately answered.