Robert Burns

WASHINGTON: In a rare move, the top Marine on Monday forced two generals into retirement after concluding they should be held to account for failing to secure a base in Afghanistan against a Taliban attack that killed two Marines.

Gen. James Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said in announcing his decision that Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg A. Sturdevant “did not take adequate force protection measures” at Camp Bastion, a sprawling British-run airfield in southwestern Afghanistan that was the Taliban target.

The Sept. 14, 2012, attack by 15 Taliban fighters caught the Marines by surprise and resulted in the deaths of Lt. Col. Christopher K. Raible, 40, and Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, 27. The Taliban also destroyed six Marine Harrier fighter jets valued at $200 million and badly damaged others. Fourteen of the 15 attackers were killed; one was captured.

Gurganus, who was the top American commander in that region of Afghanistan at the time, did not order a formal investigation after the attack. In June, Amos asked U.S. Central Command to investigate, and he said he decided to take action against the two generals after reviewing the results of that investigation.

Amos said Gurganus bore “final accountability” for the lives and equipment under his command, and had made “an error in judgment” in underestimating the risk posed by the Taliban in the Bastion area of Helmand province.

Sturdevant was in charge of Marine aviation in that region of Afghanistan. Amos said Sturdevant “did not adequately assess the force protection situation” at Bastion.

On Monday, after Amos’s announcement, Gurganus issued a brief statement saying he felt privileged to have served in the Marine Corps for 37 years. A request for comment from Sturdevant was not immediately answered.