The perimeter security and force protection measures in place at the time of the attack on Camp Bastion in 2012 were inadequate, says the Defence Select Committee
On 14 September 2012, 15 heavily-armed Taliban insurgents infiltrated the camp and attacked the airfield. The ensuing engagement lasted into the next day and resulted in the deaths of US Marine Corps Lt Col Christopher Raible and Sgt Bradley Atwell, the wounding of eight US personnel, eight UK personnel and one civilian contractor and the destruction of six US Harrier jets. US and UK troops killed 14 of the Taliban attackers and wounded the remaining attacker, who was detained and interrogated.
The Committee pays tribute to the bravery of all those ISAF personnel who engaged the enemy during the attack and expresses deepest sympathy to the families of Lt Col Raible and Sgt Atwell for their profound loss.
The Committee took evidence on the incident and concluded that the arrangements for manning of the guard towers around the perimeter of Camp Bastion were exposed by the attack as inadequate. The decision not to man a particular guard tower on the night contributed directly to the failure to detect the insurgents at an early stage which might have limited the impact of their assault. All guard towers at Bastion are now manned constantly.
Chief of Joint Operations
The Committee were unimpressed by the evidence from the Chief of Joint Operations, who explained that the number of security incidents was unusually high in Helmand Province in 2012. The Committee was told that the focus of ISAF commanders had been on security incidents elsewhere in Helmand Province and on threats from insider attack. Unfortunately the MoD has declined to provide the Committee with comparable details of the level of security incidents recorded in Helmand for previous years as this information was classified. This would have allowed the Committee to make an informed assessment of the relative threat levels in the area at the time.
Insufficient attention to external assault
Insufficient attention was given to the fundamental requirement of defending Camp Bastion from external assault. The Committee believes that this was complacent. Given that the attack took place in the British sector of the camp, British commanders must bear a degree of responsibility for these systemic failures and associated reputational damage.
Chairman of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, says:
“We are satisfied that as far as possible, the vulnerabilities which led to this extraordinary attack have now been addressed. But we recommend that the MoD capture the lessons identified as part of its wider efforts to learn lessons for future operations.”