Camp Bastion Attack report published

The summary of the report from the Defence Select Committee is as follows;

Background

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.

Tribute

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.

Guard towers

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’s comments:

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.” 

Read the full report below

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/defence-committee/news/campbastionreport/”]

 

 

I feel distinctly uneasy writing about this, I was not there and therefore, criticism does not come easy because I am simply not qualified to second guess the multiple decisions made by multiple people that led to these weaknesses being exposed.

But it is hard to escape the conclusion made by the Select Committee that British commanders bear some [emphasis mine] responsibility.

A question…

With a statement like this

British commanders must bear a degree of responsibility for these systemic failures and associated reputational damage.

What next?

We will have to wait for the MoD’s formal response.

 

 

UPDATES:

Labour respond

 

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ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 16, 2014 8:30 am

Interesting… the operative word “degree”

“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.”

The cousins fired two USMC generals, just because they were in overall command (unity of command, and all that I agree with, but still…)

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 16, 2014 8:34 am

On a second reading:
“systemic” means that there was something in-built that caused the failure/ omission.

Systematic would mean that the overall resources available would have made it possible to thwart the attack plan, but the priorities were set wrong.

… which? (is the message of the report); will have to read later

tweckyspat
April 16, 2014 8:45 am

I think systemic is used not in a technical sense by the committee but it is a euphemism for “corporate” or “collective” ie no single decision or individual was found to be the cause

Nevertheless it does seem to indicate the end of the traditional British concept that the senior leader (or politician) should carry the can when his/her organisation fails.

Tom
Tom
April 16, 2014 8:53 am

“Systematic would mean that the overall resources available would have made it possible to thwart the attack plan, but the priorities were set wrong.”

From tid-bits that have read about the webs, the suggestion has been that because of the threat of Green-On-Blue attacks, FP personnel were shifted to focus on internal security/training overwatch and less on the threat of external attack.

On the face of what we know, this doesn’t seem unreasonable given that Green-On-Blue type attacks had become a major issue around this time. Ideally this threat should of seen additional resources to deal with it, rather than shifting existing resources, but again given that the Taliban had not even attempted (as far I as know of) an attack like the attack of 2012, not a completely ridiculous decision.

There are also issue with the shear size of Bastion/Leatherneck/Shorabak.

dave haine
dave haine
April 16, 2014 9:12 am

What annoys me is the obstructive attitude of the MOD- that is just the sort of attitude that prevents any lessons being learnt. A stupid, criminal attitude, that makes me think that someone in the MOD dropped a bollock…..

What we need is the military equivalent of CHIRP (Confidential Human factors Incident Reporting Programme).
-A programme that has been running within the aviation community, both civil and military, for over forty years now. It provides a confidential (no names, no pack drill) way of people reporting flight safety concerns, and problems. It has been acknowledged as the single biggest contribution to flight safety, since the introduction of ATC. The programme has spotted an awful lot of issues before they caused deaths. It is now a mandatory ICAO/IATA requirement for all nations.

All the deaths and injuries are wasted if we don’t take a long hard look and learn those lessons, however personally damaging and unpleasant they are.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
April 16, 2014 9:44 am

Would “Systemic” include there not being enough men or money to do the job better…because of political decisions taken to continue to collect the “peace dividend” whilst actually fighting two wars? I should add that I am aware that at least some operational costs are met out-with the Defence Budget…but if the underlying force structure from which deployments are drawn is simply not big enough, well enough equipped or given enough opportunities for training that is bound to have an effect on outcomes…

GNB

Derek
Derek
April 16, 2014 10:33 am

ACC,

Good observation. The conduct of the USMC, in every phase of this incident, and on almost every metric has been substantially more impressive than that of the British Army. Once again, this raises questions about why there seems to be a lack of accountability within the British military, especially at the senior ranks, and just how over committed the force is given the capability is is actually capable of generating.

The Other Chris
April 16, 2014 11:47 am

@Derek

You’re not a Marine. Are you?

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
April 16, 2014 11:57 am

I wonder how the system for evaluating the security levels worked, as there must be some form of overlapping continuity of arrangements between different CO’s. So when were the arrangements first made, how frequently were they reassessed and who assessed them, I can’t see the commander at Bastion being the guy assessing or even making the decision as to where troops were placed, and also as it was a multinational base where is the overlap of arrangements and how is that managed. but the CO does of course still bear the moral responsiblity for what happened, but he is propably not solely responsible. i personally feel it will be one of these situations where there are a number of factors that happened to lead to it.

At interesting point I saw in one of the papers was that the British weren’t allowed to stop the locals growing poppy’s nearby as the Afghans were the only ones allowed to do so.

Obsvr
Obsvr
April 16, 2014 1:02 pm

20/20 hindsight is always a wonderful thing. Perfect base security would be at the expense of actual operations against the enemy. The tactical decisions made were entirely reasonable given what was clearly the generally accepted threat profile. The MPs should be loudly told not to be dickheads and not to second guess tactical decisions. In war shit happens. Tough.

As for senior officers being accountable for tactical decisions that turn out to be wrong and therefore resigning, what crap, in UK responsibility is delegated down to the appropriate level, it avoids over-command, a known US deficiency that reduces flexibility and the willingness of junior commanders to make decisions.

Mike wheatley
Mike wheatley
April 16, 2014 1:10 pm

Responsibility is not the same as blame.
Safety is everyone’s responsibility.

So ~ of course~ British commanders should seize responsibility the security that was breached, and (a) learn from it and (b) work out what if anything we should have already know but forgot, and (c) create procedures to avoid forgetting these lessons in future.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 3:19 pm

Bob the Bore has heard his cue.

Anyway. It’s complacency. Bastion turned more and more into a garrison town as it grew and the wire was pushed further and further back and out of sight. The emphasis since 2008 has been on the internal threat. Not green on blue but far
more on internal sabotage etc from the local national contractors. The blokes stagging on in the towers were bored shitless. If you took units that had been stagging on CPs and PBs they were even more switched off because the threat was so low.

It boils down to not taking the threat seriously. To be perfectly frank seeing as BSN was the hub of everything and they’ve hit the place a handful of times the risk has never been very large. We’ve gotten our knickers in a twist about a pin prick attack. How it happened is a sorry story, but that it happened has not had anything remotely like disastrous consequences.

They got one over on us because we weren’t sparking there because the place was a camp on planet bullshit more concerned with standards of dress and making the cookhouse bigger.

Build operational bases like garrison towns you get garrison town mentality. Build bases like they are a base to prosecute a war from and you get a warry attitude.

Solution: ban all the frilly shit. No cookhouse with 12 plasmas. No multiple EFIs. No curry houses or pizza huts. No fucking jacuzzis or hard accommodation unless it’s a mud compound.

mike
mike
April 16, 2014 3:54 pm

TD said:
“Charity fun runs, Timmy Hortens, tribute videos on YouTube and no one in guard towers, perhaps the lesson is in there”

^^^ This.

Lessons learned, ready to be forgotten again on the next big occupation/operation.

x
x
April 16, 2014 4:24 pm

Phil is Bagram Batman.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 4:57 pm

Never had the pleasure of Bagram. I did Kandahar. Twice to pass through on RnR.

It was very plush but at least every now and then a rocket would obliterate a landmark and it’s unfortunate occupants every now and then to remind you there was a war on.

Engineer Tom
Engineer Tom
April 16, 2014 5:09 pm

I read a book about the Paras back in 06 in Helmand and they said how alien the base at Kandahar was to their experience elsewhere, and I expect Bastion was even more so.

Phil
Phil
April 16, 2014 5:33 pm

BSN in 06 was austere as they say. Even in 2008 it was nothing like Kandahar and still felt like an operational base. By 2010/11 it had all gone batshit insane and I was getting beasted for not having packed an iron when I was passing through on my way home in 2011. People in BSN forgot to be afraid.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 16, 2014 6:16 pm

Drawing on Phil’s view, there are limits to contractor supported wars

“Solution: ban all the frilly shit. No cookhouse with 12 plasmas. No multiple EFIs. No curry houses or pizza huts. No fucking jacuzzis or hard accommodation unless it’s a mud compound.”

Bill
Bill
April 16, 2014 6:25 pm

Not comfortable at all to comment on the event or the enquiry, because I wasnt there, shit happens and questions of blame dont appear to help anyone,. What does appear in the descriptions is that camp and security set ups could have benefitted from a “mystery shopper”, someone around in the camp unknown and not part of the chain of cmd with specialist skills providing (on an anon basis), bad guy perspective on gaps, weak points, scenarios etc before shit happens, not to criticise ,but to help commanders test, adjust and refine their set ups. Its difficult otherwise to think from all angles, best to focus how to get better as there will be a next time.
Just a thought.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
April 16, 2014 11:05 pm

The above link, interesting language, even if not a very informed discussion:
– what the Brits do, is something that has been outsourced (contractors mentioned in the same sentence); not much sense of a coalition and joint effort?

Oh, and then the cuts that are coming… even more need for outsourcing?

Obsvr
Obsvr
April 17, 2014 2:29 am

There is no such thing as a military base that cannot be penetrated by a competent and determined attacker, particularly if they are willing to take serious losses. In this case if it had been Vietcong sappers there would have been serious loss and damage. The threat in Afg is not of that scale and competence.

I’d also add that being a sentry is actually the most responsible job a private solder is ever given. Unfortunately the training for the job is often not that good, particularly for the NCOs posting sentries. It invites the question as to whether the NCOs posting the sentries specifically told them they were also covering the approaches of the empty posts and any particular bits of ground they should keep a particular eye on? Does the Brit Army even have an aide memoire for posting sentries, there should be about 20 points on it IIRC, that may need to be dealt with, depending on the situation.

Tubby
Tubby
April 17, 2014 7:22 am

@TD

I do wonder if Solomon has a point (in his usual bombastic and overly combative style of writing) that we are making excuses in this case. Normally as a nation we are very vocal about our shortcomings, we simply do not normally allow national pride to get in the way of our self-depreciation. In this case we do seem to be treading very softly on the criticism front, and I wonder if it had been two Royal Marines killed and six of the CHF’s Sea King’s destroyed if we would be saying the same thing.

I am sure Solomon will be along soon to tell us what we did wrong, and while I do think it is worth asking why it took 4 minutes for the RAF regiment to turn up once the attack began, it is also worth asking some more nuanced questions, particularly looking at the command and control, and contingency planning . I also wonder if it is also worth comparing to and contrasting to the attack on PNS Mehran, as while this was not conducted by the Taliban it was on the same scale as Bastion using similar tactics?

Topman
Topman
April 17, 2014 8:57 am

Have the detailed reports been published online? There seems to be a lot of people that know the ins and outs of what happened.

Simon257
Simon257
April 17, 2014 9:15 am

TD, I don’t know if you have seen this, it from BFBS posted in Feburary.

http://web202.ssvc.com/news/articles/army/2256

A few things that I haven’t seen mentioned since the incident. Who was responsible for External Security & Internal Security of Camp Bastion. At Kandahar, the Canadians were responsible for the Internal Security of the Airport. Whilst the RAF Regiment Squadron was responsible for the external security. In that, it ran vehicle patrols, manned the four small Patrol Bases/Blockhouses it had established. Whilst also supplying FP for the Chinook MERT flight. All with a single squadron.

Was it then expected to mount QRF, Internal Patrols, External patrols and supply FP for the MERT Flights? Because thats asking a’bit much of a single Squadron to cover such a vast base like Bastion. So much so, their are Two RAF Regt Squadrons now at Camp Bastian. One of which is 51 Squadron. Which I will point out was sent back to Afghanistan 12 months after leaving Camp Bastian. It was this Squadron that was involved in this incident.

Plus how were 40 Fijians supposed to man 25 towers on a 24/7 Basis? What were they expected to do? Cut themselves down the middle? How many Servicemen and Women are based at Camp Bastion. And why none of them could be found to help man the towers.

Did anyone think to ask the SAS or Delta to look for weaknesses in the Perimeter?

@ Tubby
If you rang 999, and asked for any of the Emergency Services. From the moment they got the Call to turn out, do you think that they could get from their station to your house in 4 minutes?

Tom
Tom
April 17, 2014 9:15 am

“…. and while I do think it is worth asking why it took 4 minutes for the RAF regiment to turn up once the attack began…”

Have you seen how big Bastion/Leatherneck is? Assuming they took minute to work out where the attack was exactly and what size the attacking force was, I don’t think the reaction time of the Regt QRF was too terrible.

“… I wonder if it had been two Royal Marines killed and six of the CHF’s Sea King’s destroyed if we would be saying the same thing.”

Good point. It is easy to be complacent when it wasn’t your men/equipment.

But as Obsvr and others, no base is invulnerable and a large garrison base that hasn’t seen many threats is going to get complacent, particularly when there are many other demands for manpower.

The lesson to learn (aside from review Force Protection plans) is how big to you allow a base in what is technically a war zone to get? Big bases have a certain strength due to their size (it’s difficult for a enemy to overwhelm) and allow you to have facilities/capabilities* that you can’t have a a FOB but become more difficult to defend and attract alot of civi-REMF types.

* like a runway big enough for C-17s, allowing you to cutout a link in your logistics train.

Topman
Topman
April 17, 2014 9:47 am

‘And why none of them could be found to help man the towers. ‘

If it was like any other desert airbase they would have been. Duties are handed out to lodger units to provide xyz amount of manpower for things like guard.

Tubby
Tubby
April 17, 2014 10:28 am

and Simon257,

You might find the following interesting: http://www.hqmc.marines.mil/News/NewsArticleDisplay/tabid/3488/Article/151114/read-camp-bastion-attack-investigation-documents.aspx

There is also a link to all the documents from the US investigation (not reproduced here as TD’s spam filter does not like posts with lots of links, and if you click on it you have to consent to monitoring of your access). Not sure where I got the 4 minutes figure from – I have googled too many different pages and it may simply be someone off the cuff remark that I have taken as gospel, but the general consent (which is in the official documents) is that the UK Quick Reaction Force lagged the US Quick Reaction Force and that the American’s were the first to engage. Now I suspect the issue was that our forces where just spread to thin, compounded by C2 issues that degraded the coordination of the response between the two forces but I still haven’t finished looking through every thing to be totally sure that is the case.

Phil
Phil
April 17, 2014 10:45 am

In 2008 stag was parcelled out to the various units ensconced within its confines no matter the cap badge. That in itself leads to some fucking shocking sangar briefs and complete cluelessness as to actions on. In 2008 we had a suicide bomber blow up outside the wire and the person on stag invited everyone up to the tower to have a loom rather than standing to.

Also, BSN and leatherneck is huge. Or was then. Really massive. In 2008 the circumference was about 8 miles if you didn’t take in the ASP or the runway. Far more if you did. By 2011 I think even that had doubled. It’s a very big place hence why there was a bus service in it!

In 2008 a TA FP coy was responsible for stagging on. I remember visibly the ‘Stagonika’ company graffiti in Granite 73 I think. Poor bastards.

Phil
Phil
April 17, 2014 10:47 am

Autocorrect makes it look like I type like a rutard. There was no loom in the Sanger, that would have been odd even by my standards. Can’t seem to edit on my phone

Obsvr
Obsvr
April 18, 2014 2:42 am

The other solution is to leave a percentage of all infantry behind to defend the perimeter. This is what Australia did at Nui Dat in SVN, and for the 6 years after Long Tan there was never any attempt to penetrate Nui Dat. The perimeter was about 6km excluding the airstrip. They had an all arms reinforcement unit about 200 strong, that provided battle casualty replacements and replacements for conscripts whose time ran out. This coy basically dominated the ground 2 or 3 kms out from the perimeter. The infantry force was 3 bns totalling 13 rifle coys with 10 man sections (10 sects per rifle coy), somewhat more substantial than UK! Leaving 2 men behind from every section gave a force of 260 men just for starters, plus lots of other support types all properly trained (everyman had to pass through the 3 week course at battle wing of the Jungle Trg Centre in Qld). If the British Army was properly organised for military effectiveness instead of ‘saving’ infantry regts then sensible actions would be possible.