The families zeroed in on Maj. Gen. Charles "Mark" Gurganus, who recently returned to the U.S. after commanding coalition forces in Afghanistan, as the man responsible for shortchanging security at Bastion. Gurganus was the same one who ordered Marines to disarm -- immediately after a failed jihadi attack on then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last year -- because he wanted them "to look just like our (unarmed) Afghan partners."
The Camp Bastion families are not the only ones scrutinizing Gurganus' decisions. A few weeks ago, Washington Post reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran reported that the U.S. military has finally launched a formal probe into whether Gurganus and his subordinates bear responsibility for lax security at Bastion. A planned promotion for Gurganus has been put on hold.
Chandrasekaran confirmed that watchtowers were indeed left to Tongans (notorious at the base for sleeping on the job). In addition, reports Chandrasekaran, "Security patrols of the perimeter, which were conducted by the Marines ... had been scaled back substantially in the months leading up to the attack." Simply blaming the Tongans, however, is not accountability. U.S. staff decisions "made it easier for the Taliban to reconnoiter the compound and then enter without resistance," according to Chadrasekaran's sources with direct knowledge of the incident.
While U.S. Central Command investigates, there is now movement on Capitol Hill to help Camp Bastion families whose information requests have been stymied. Rep. Todd Rokita, R-Ind., has written Marine/CENTCOM leadership on behalf of the victims' families. (Sgt. Atwell and his family are from Indiana.) Rokita told me in a statement this week: "This is about transparency and accountability. I want to make sure that Sgt. Atwell's family, Lt. Col. Raible's family and the American people get the full truth about the Camp Bastion attack."
It's a start. But as with Benghazi and Fast and Furious, getting the truth about Camp Bastion is only half the battle. Truth without consequences is a recipe for more dead Americans.
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