The Marine Corps has announced it will fire the pair of 2-star generals who were in charge in Helmand province, Afghanistan last year when the Taliban executed a complex ambush on the Marines regional headquarters at Camp Leatherneck.
In what he described as the hardest decision of his tenure, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Jim Amos has recommended to the Secretary of the Navy that Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant be relieved of duties and forced to retire.
Gurganus was the commanding general of the southwestern corner of the war in Afghanistan on Sept. 14 of last year when a team of Taliban fighters wearing U.S. Army uniforms slipped the perimeter and assaulted Camp Bastion/ Camp Leatherneck complex that serves as the coalition headquarters for Helmand province. The Taliban fighters killed the commanding officer of a Harrier squadron, Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and one of his sergeants, Sgt. Bradley Atwell. They also wounded dozens more and destroyed six of the attack jets, which cost $US24 million a piece.
Sturdevant was responsible for all aviation assets in the region.
Amos asked Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commanding general of U.S. Southern Command, to review the incident. Austin found gross negligence and culpability on the commanders.
During their time in Afghanistan, Gurganus and Sturdevant saw the size of their force decrease from 17,000 to roughly 7,000. Security for the part of the base the Taliban attacked fell to a small team of forces from the Pacific nation of Tonga who were notorious for falling asleep on post.
Rajiv Chandrasekaran with the Washington Post reportedthe Taliban fighters simply walked past the perimeter.
Gurganus was nominated for promotion to lieutenant general and slated to assume duties as director of the Marine Corps staff at the Pentagon. That nomination will be rescinded. Sturdevant is presently assigned as the director of strategic planning and policy at U.S. Pacific Command.
There’s some indication that this was an expected. In July, the Corps placed Gurganus’ nomination and promotion on hold and assigned a different general to serve as the chief advisor to the commandant and oversee Marine Corps headquarters operations.
“This is the hardest decision I’ve had to make as commandant of the Marine Corps,” Amos said. “I’m not asking you to feel sorry for me, but Mark Gurganus and Gregg Sturdevant were close personal friends of mine. I served with them for decades. They’re extraordinary Marine officers who have served their country with distinction and honour for many years. But commandership is a sacred responsibility and the standard for general officers is necessarily high. In their duty to protect our forces these two generals did not meet that standard.”
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