The deadly attack last year on Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, has received widespread coverage, especially by Marine Corps Times. But it isn’t every day that a Marine operation makes the pages of a gentlemen’s magazine.
The newest GQ magazine profiles the Sept. 14, 2012, battle, sharing a number of details that square with previously published reports. It was written by Matthieu Aikins, whom I crossed paths with last October while embedded with Marines in Helmand province.
Aikins’ story is written colorfully, and includes one troubling new allegation that had not previously been reported:
But a troubling question still lingers: How could fifteen insurgents have penetrated a mammoth base like Camp Bastion, inflicting the largest loss of American aircraft in combat since Vietnam?
According to an American official familiar with the after-attack inquiry, there had been warning signs. The Marines and British had caught lone men crawling inside the wire on several occasions in the months leading up to the attack. But the Marine leadership in Helmand, led by Major General Charles M. Gurganus, was managing a drawdown in forces as the surge came to an end. And a month before the attack, says the official, the Marines cut their forces assigned to patrol outside the wire from 325 down to one hundred—forces that might have caught the attackers before they struck.
Commandant Gen. Jim Amos requested that U.S. Central Command to investigate the circumstances that led to the attack in May, some five months afterward. The cut in forces patrolling the base has previously been reported, but the military catching individual men attempting to crawl beneath the wire had not.
Lt. Col. Christopher Raible, the commanding officer of Marine Attack Squadron 211, and Sgt. Bradley Atwell were killed in the melee. At least four other Marines have received Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in the attack.