An Update on the Taliban Attack at Camp Bastion: UK Provided Perimeter Security
Camp Bastion perimeter security was being provided by the UK the evening of the attack. And the Taliban attack itself is detailed in a BBC story which is well worth reading.
According to this story:
Bastion is one of the biggest camps in Afghanistan – its perimeter is 37km in length.
It appears the Taliban got close to the perimeter through a network of dry river beds that run nearby.
Although Bastion is in an area of desert, the surroundings are not uninhabited.
The Royal Air Force’s 51 squadron, the base’s quick response force, crossed the runway in two heavily-armed, Coyote open-topped vehicles.
A four-and-a-half hour long firefight then ensued.
Sgt Roy “Doc” Geddes was one of those leading the counter-attack.
“This is something we weren’t expecting, the base is quite well defended,” he said.
“Obviously they’ve found the weak point, and managed to exploit that and get on to the base, but once they were on they were dealt with effectively and quickly.”
According to SLD sources, the USMC operated its helos inside the wire to be part of the counter-offensive and to contribute to eliminating the Taliban attackers.
The BBC story also underscored how the Taliban used the cover of darkness as part of the attack profile.
The Taliban attackers who broke through Camp Bastion’s perimeter chose the darkest night of the year to launch their assault.
They quickly made their way to the US Marine Harrier flight line.
They were dressed in American army uniforms but, instead of boots, they wore training shoes.
Their beards were another give-away, but the darkness meant that the coalition forces on the base only realised they were insurgents when they opened fire.
In quick succession, they fired rocket-propelled grenades at eight Harrier jump jets under canvas hangers, destroying six and damaging two.
The UK Ministry of Defence has provided an overview on the RAF protection wing and its role at Camp Bastion.
Fifteen heavily-armed insurgents dressed in US Army uniforms and armed with PKM general purpose machine guns, AK-47 rifles and rocket-propelled grenades broke through perimeter defences and initially targeted tower guards with heavy fire.
Tragically two US Marines were killed.
Subsequently they attacked the USMC flight line, damaging infrastructure and AV-8B Harrier jump jets. The RAF Force Protection Wing based at Camp Bastion was quick to react, deploying forces throughout the camp, with 51 Squadron RAF Regiment pushing out onto the airfield and the RAF Police from the Bastion Security Squadron maintaining security around key installations throughout the camp.
The RAF Regiment gunners’ aim was to reclaim control of the airfield. Supported by a number of different direct fire weapons, and co-ordinating the assault with members of 2/10 Battalion US Marine Corps, they moved methodically across the airfield engaging in various fire fights as they dealt with pockets of resistance over a period of some four hours.
Flight Lieutenant Andy Beney was the Force Protection Wing’s battle captain located in the Operations Room during the incident.
“Everyone responded decisively, situational awareness was quickly established, and we were quick to deploy the necessary assets in order to deal with the attack as effectively as possible.”
Sergeant Al Bedford was the RAF Regiment incident controller in the Operations Room at the time of the attack. He said:
“We were attacked from multiple firing points; however, we quickly co-ordinated ground troops and air assets to suppress the enemy and then utilised those assets to clear the airfield of any remaining insurgents. We also co-ordinated medical support to the gunners on the ground and ensured resupply was timely, allowing the lads to maintain their momentum.”
Sergeant Roy ‘Doc’ Geddes was tactical commander of an RAF Regiment Flight consisting of 30 gunners on the airfield during the attack. He was himself injured during the assault, sustaining fragmentation injuries from a rocket-propelled grenade:
“I was the Quick Reaction Force commander when we responded to the attack,” he said.
“As I moved onto the airfield I could already see some Harriers on fire. We were soon engaged with the enemy who used small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades; however, my gunners were quick to react and returned fire, suppressing the enemy position.”
After the initial fire fight, 51 Squadron regrouped. Commanded by Squadron Leader Kev McMurdo they then systematically moved through the airfield ensuring that they cleared all the surrounding buildings and hangars. Assaulting one insurgent position and clearing the Harrier parking area, any remaining insurgents were dealt with quickly and effectively.
Co-ordinated by the Force Protection Wing’s Tactical Air Control Party, UK Apache helicopters provided overwatch to the gunners on the ground, suppressing a number of insurgent positions.
The successful operation had secured the airfield by the early hours of the morning, quickly allowing normal operations to resume.