September 15, 2012
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An investigation is now underway to establish how almost twenty insurgents mounted an attack on the UK’s biggest military base in Helmand Province. Camp Bastion which has been the home to thousands of British Troops since 2006, had up until now been as its name suggests a bastion or stronghold for coalition troops.
When it was first occupied it was a small tented settlement surrounded by miles and miles of the Afghan Dasht-e (desert). This meant it was isolated and separated from the Afghan people and most importantly the insurgents, but over the years its size has grown and grown. Driving south from Highway One (Afghanistan’s one and only main road) visitors are now greeted by a vast sprawling city which is home to thousands of multinational troops (not to mention a Pizza Hut, a KFC and dozens of coffee shops). Where there was just one camp, there is are now Camp Bastion zero, one, two and three as well as Camp Leatherneck (U.S) and Camp Shorabak (ANA).
But how could a group of insurgents get close enough to mount an attack on this huge military garrison in the sand? Whilst its size makes it a daunting target it also makes it harder to defend, and where it was once surrounded by nothing but sand and rock, its wire fences and guard towers have now migrated out further towards the Afghan people. The base has also attracted groups of Afghans to move and live on its boundaries, to benefit from the security and the trade of living under the watch of its menacing guard towers. But this means that it is now normal to see people moving around its perimeter, allowing any potential attacker to get closer to the base by using the newly built settlements as cover.
This however isn’t the first time that there has been a security breach at Camp Bastion this year. In March a locally employed civilian (LEC) protested over the burning of copies of the Koran at Bagram Airbase. He drove around the camp allegedly attempting to run over members of the Armed Forces before attempting to drive his car onto the runway. It was there he was stopped, however not before he could set himself on fire.
The report below shows how the size of Camp Bastion has meant that its security is more challenging now than it has ever been, it was filmed in March 2012 on the same day as the security breach mentioned above
whilst I was working for British Forces News.