Saturday, October 6, 2012

Serious Questions About Inadequate Security

Camp Bastion - crime scene or military base?

Our Congressmen have been so preoccupied with getting to the bottom of what happened at our Not-a-Consulate in Benghazi on September 11 that they are overlooking an even juicier scandal that happened in Afghanistan three days later.

On September 14, fifteen Taliban insurgents attacked Camp Bastion, killing two U.S. Marines and destroying somewhere around $200 million worth of Harrier jump-jets and refueling facilities. Camp Bastion is the largest coalition military base in Afghanistan, and houses 28,000 troops and contractors inside a 40-mile long perimeter. It adjoins Camp Leatherneck with its Third Marine Aircraft Wing and associated units on another 1,600 acres of land.

According to press reports, interviews with troops who were there, and video released by the Taliban itself, the attackers entered the base perimeter undetected by cutting through chain link fencing. Once inside, they used RPGs and explosive charges to destroy six Harriers and damage two more, and then engaged a British response force in a four-hour long firefight in which more coalition troops were wounded.

How in the world could that Taliban attack have been so successful? The only possible answer is that Camp Bastion must have had inadequate security.

Here's the BBC report on this shocking security failure:

And here's an interview with one of the U.S. Marines at Bastion:

That incident ought to have sent our Congressional oversight committees into a frenzy of fact-finding and witness-calling. They should be demanding answers to such obvious questions as:

-- Was a security assessment conducted before putting Prince Harry in Camp Bastion?

-- Was the force protection posture at Camp Bastion raised before September 11?

-- Did ISAF really consider a chain link fence - a measure that seems more suitable for a junkyard than a military base - adequate for perimeter security?

-- Did the Secretary of Defense grant a waiver of security standards?

-- Is ISAF aware of the long history of terrorist incidents in Helmand Province, Afghanistan?

-- Did ISAF request additional resources for security before the attack? If so, were the requests denied?

-- Why were British troops - who are foreigners - responsible for the security of a facility that houses U.S. troops and critical assets?

-- Does ISAF believe that the vital task of security should be outsourced?

-- Didn't Camp Leatherneck have Marine guards? Aren't all Marine facilities, like all U.S. Embassies, supposed to have Marine guards???

-- Were all the guards at Camp Bastion armed?

-- Were any of the troops at Bastion unarmed or carrying weapons without rounds in the chamber, and if so, on whose authority?

-- Why has the FBI not yet arrived at Camp Bastion to conduct an investigation of this terrorist attack?

-- Has the crime scene at Camp Bastion been preserved? If not, why did ISAF allow it to be contaminated before the arrival of the FBI?

And the most serious question of all: does the Defense Department have adequate resources for security of its overseas facilities, or could it use a few billion dollars more? Just say the word and it's yours. 

Really, I am amazed at how perceptions differ between the two incidents. In Benghazi, 100 or more attackers (according to witnesses interviewed by the news media) swarmed over a few residential villas using small arms, RPGs, and mortars before the host government could bring enough force to intervene. That amounted to a spectacular failure of security, according to various Congressmen who evidently expect diplomatic missions to be protected like military bases.

At Camp Bastion, an actual military base was invaded by fifteen insurgents who inflicted enough damage to have a strategic impact upon our operations there, but that incident seems to have made no political impact whatsoever. The congressional attitude appears to be that things like that happen in war, so no one is to blame.

Fun fact: the replacement cost of the six Harrier AV/8B aircraft destroyed at Camp Bastion is likely to be, according to my best internet source, $23.7 million each or a total of $142 million. That much money would easily cover the cost of a small Fortress Embassy, according to this publicly available source of information.

What are the odds that Congress will drop any extra money in State's overseas facility construction budget next year? Much lower than the odds that it will buy more Harriers, I think. I will be delighted if it turns out I'm wrong.


Anonymous said...

Great post TSB. Lots of good questions. gwb

James said...

With all the green on blue attacks lately you have to wonder if there was some inside help. It does remind me of the VC attack on the Da Nang marine airbase early in the Vetnam war.

TSB said...

James: yes, the attack on Bastion was just like some airbase attacks in Vietnam. Two days after the attack, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs said that neither DOD or the British see any evidence of insiders. I can believe that, since - and I get this info from the Taliban's video record of their preparation for the attack - the Harriers were located just inside the perimeter at a point where terrain features allowed the Talibs to get up to the fence without being detected. It's likely to be just that dumb.

James said...

An uncovered avenue of approach right to the wire, damn! They are lucky as hell that it was a small operation. Well the Ben Ghazi FBI team should be there anytime to sort it out.

Matt said...

We need some major changes in infastucture - in my opinion we need more contracted, private companies like Immediate Response Group and others to set the pace in security.