More than four months after a deadly attack at a sprawling allied base in Afghanistan that killed two U.S. Marines, there are lingering questions about how it happened.
Capitol Hill sources say they've been pressing for answers since the Sept. 14th attack in Helmand Province, and say the military has not been forthcoming. Congress then pushed the Pentagon and the American command in Kabul to look into the matter and now say there are indications of serious security lapses. The main question is this: How could a group of Taliban fighters cut through a fence undetected, especially because the base is in a remote desert area with walls, guard towers, cameras and thousands of personnel?
Now Congress may finally be getting at least some answers. Pentagon officials are scheduled to brief House Armed Services Committee staff on Friday.
Fifteen Taliban fighters, dressed in American Army uniforms, sliced a hole in the fence at the British Camp Bastion in Helmand Province on the night of September 14, 2012. The Marines' Camp Leatherneck is adjacent to Bastion, and is the headquarters of Marine Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus, the top allied officer in the region in southwest Afghanistan.
The Taliban fighters 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 six Harrier jets and damaged two others. Each plane costs about $30 million. The Taliban also destroyed fuel pits, and witnesses said flames shot 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 during the attack.
Raible ran toward the Taliban, firing his service pistol when he was killed. Atwell was killed by an RPG as he pushed forward in a counterattack. Both British and U.S. Marines responded with a force that included attack helicopters, killed 14 Taliban and wounded one. Eight service members and one contractor were wounded, but not seriously.
(Tom Bowman is NPR's Pentagon Correspondent.)