All it takes is one crack for a stone wall to start crumbling. Nine months after the deadly September 14 raid on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan, the families of two fallen Marines may finally get some answers. Real accountability, of course, is another story.
A formal internal investigation into lax security at the base — a British-run NATO compound that adjoins our Marines’ Camp Leatherneck — is now under way. A few members of Congress are putting pressure on the administration for the truth. And a couple of mainstream reporters are digging deeper.
More, please. And faster. Camp Bastion belongs in the bloody-scandal lexicon with Benghazi and Fast and Furious. This trio of national-security disasters under the Obama administration didn’t just involve run-of-the-mill corruption and cover-ups. It cost American lives.
As I’ve been reporting in a series of columns and blog posts over the past year, the Taliban waged an intricately coordinated, brutal attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan last fall — three days after the deadly siege on our consulate in Libya and after months of prior security incidents and warnings. Fifteen jihadists disguised in stolen American combat fatigues penetrated the complex. They used rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles, and other weapons to wipe out nearly an entire squadron of Marine Harrier jets worth an estimated $200 million.
Along with the most devastating loss of U.S. airpower since Vietnam, two heroic U.S. Marines — Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Raible and Sergeant Bradley Atwell — were killed in the battle, and nearly a dozen others were injured. Military officials refused to release details of the fateful budget and strategy decisions that led to the attack. But Deborah Hatheway, aunt of Sergeant Atwell and the family’s spokesperson, and other Camp Bastion families learned on their own that their loved ones were left vulnerable to attack by military leaders who outsourced watchtower security on the base to soldiers from Tonga.
The neglect of security at Bastion was widely known. Nick Francona, a former Marine Corps ground-intelligence officer with 3rd Battalion, 4th Marines, who served as a scout sniper platoon commander in Helmand Province in 2011, recounted on Foreign Policy magazine’s “The Best Defense” blog in April: “It was obvious to even a casual observer that many of the posts were unmanned and were comically left with a ‘green Ivan’ silhouette target as a halfhearted attempt at deterrence.”