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Review Of Deadly Attack On Base In Afghanistan Finds Troops Let Guard Down

A Marine Corps review of the deadly Taliban attack on an allied base in Afghanistan last September found that some guard towers were unattended, and the insurgents "got lucky" by cutting through the fence at a remote area of the base in Helmand Province, Capitol Hill sources tell NPR.

A House staffer briefed on the review said allied troops "let their guard down" at Camp Bastion and have now "vastly" beefed up security with sensors and more British and American guards, but there is no indication anyone will be held accountable.

"(Allied military officers) considered this kind of an attack a low probability," said the House staffer, and focused instead on "insider attacks," involving Afghan security forces.

The troops who were providing some of the perimeter security at the time were from the country of Tonga, an archipelago in the South Pacific, Pentagon and Capitol Hill sources said.

The Marine Corps said its top leadership, including Marine Commandant, General James Amos, were being briefed on the results and had no immediate comment.

The attack took place on the night of September 14th at Camp Bastion, a British base that adjoins Camp Leatherneck, the sprawling Marine base that is the headquarters for Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, the top allied officer in the region of southwest Afghanistan. The British did their own review, but the Marines did not — until Congress pressed for months that they conduct a review.

Fifteen Taliban fighters, dressed in American Army uniforms, sliced a hole in the fence at a corner of the base. They were able to use the cover of the rolling desert landscape and a dry creek bed. Initially, Marines thought they were Americans until they opened fire.

The Taliban went on a spree that led to the deaths of Marine Lt. Col. Chris Raible, a Harrier squadron commander from Pennsylvania and Marine Sgt. Bradley Atwell of Indiana.

During the four-hour attack, the Taliban fighters, armed with rocket propelled grenades destroyed or damaged eight Harrier jets, at a cost of between $200 million and $300 million. The Taliban destroyed fuel pits as well, and witnesses said flames shot more than one hundred feet into the air. Britain's Prince Harry, an attack helicopter pilot, happened to be at the base and was moved to a secure location.

Raible charged the Taliban with only his service revolver before he was killed. Atwell was killed by an RPG. American and British troops responded with attack helicopters and killed fourteen of the Taliban, and wounded one. Eight service members and a contractor were wounded, though not seriously.

Initially, officials believed a network of insurgents from Pakistan, known as the Haqqani network, were responsible for the attack. But now they have confirmed that it was local Taliban, and the investigation into their activities continues.

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