Afghanistan - Camp Bastion Attack - Defence Committee Contents

Conclusions and recommendations


1.  We pay tribute to the bravery of all those ISAF personnel who engaged the enemy during the attack on Camp Bastion that night. We express our deepest sympathy to the families of Lieutenant Colonel Raible and Sergeant Atwell for their profound loss. (Paragraph 3)

The burning man incident

2.  At the time of the attack the Memorandum of Understanding between USCENTCOM and PJHQ had not been revised, despite the fact that all parties appeared to agree on the necessity to make revisions in the aftermath of the "burning man incident". Witnesses were neither able to explain to us which members of the Executive Steering Group rejected the revised draft MOU nor what the reasons for the rejection were. The delays to the process of revision allowed weaknesses in command and control arrangements for force protection to persist. It is an enduring characteristic of conflict that the enemy fights back. ISAF personnel were exposed to unnecessary risk. In response to our report the MoD must explain why the failure to revise the MOU prior to the September 2012 attack should not be regarded as an act of omission. (Paragraph 24)

Security incidents recorded inHelmand Province

3.  The inference we drew from the Chief of Joint Operation's evidence was that the number of security incidents was unusually high in Helmand Province in 2012. Unfortunately the MoD declined to provide us with comparable details of the level of security incidents recorded in Helmand for previous years as this information was classified. This would have allowed us to make an informed assessment of the relative threat levels in the area at the time. (Paragraph 26)

Camp Bastion Guard towers

4.  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 Tower 16 on the night of 14-15 September 2014 contributed directly to the failure to detect the insurgents at an early stage which might have limited the impact of their assault. We note that all guard towers are now manned constantly. (Paragraph 33)

Perimeter security

5.  We were concerned to learn of the number of breaches of the perimeter fence of Camp Bastion in the two years prior to the attack and the apparent tolerance of poppy cultivation immediately outside the fence. We consider that the failure to take concerted action to prevent these activities increased the risk of surveillance and intelligence gathering by Afghan nationals which could have assisted insurgent planning for an attack on the base. (Paragraph 38)

Force protection projects and expenditure

6.  Media reports suggested that prior to the September 2012 attack additional security measures at Camp Bastion were denied funding by the MoD on cost grounds. We have seen no evidence that proposals for improved force protection measures were turned down by the UK chain of command. (Paragraph 45)

7.  The "burning man" incident in March 2012 prompted a review of security measures around the perimeter of the Bastion airfield. We consider that the decision by the Executive Steering Group to create a ditch and berm defensive obstacle rather than erect additional fencing was a proportionate response to the threat of an insider attack through vehicular incursion onto the airfield from within the base. It is unlikely that additional fencing around the airfield perimeter would have presented a significant impediment to the insurgents on 14-15 September 2012 and altered significantly the outcome of the attack. (Paragraph 46)


8.  The MoD were wrong to refuse to share the report on the attack prepared by Lieutenant General Bradshaw, in his capacity as Deputy Commander ISAF. As this was the highest level UK report into the attack, its status as an ISAF document should not have prevented its release to us. The MoD has been obstructive and unhelpful to us as we tried to establish the facts surrounding the attack. (Paragraph 48)

9.  We are concerned that the perimeter security and force protection measures in place at the time of the attack were inadequate. We were told that the focus of ISAF commanders had been on security incidents elsewhere in Helmand Province and on threats from insider attack. Insufficient attention was given to the fundamental requirement of defending Camp Bastion from external assault. We believe 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. (Paragraph 49)

10.  We note the acknowledgement by the MoD that errors were made which, collectively, created the vulnerabilities which were so devastatingly exploited by the enemy. From the evidence we have received, we are satisfied that as far as possible, these vulnerabilities have now been addressed. (Paragraph 50)

11.  We recommend that the MoD capture the lessons identified from this extraordinary attack as part of its wider efforts to learn lessons from Afghanistan for future operations. It should explain how it intends to do so in its response to our report. (Paragraph 51)

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Prepared 16 April 2014