While most of the British media have been focusing on Prince Harry not being injured in the Taliban attack near Camp Bastion last week, I haven't seen discussion of what a coup the destruction of eight US Marine Corps Harrier jump jets was for the insurgents.
In the space of a few minutes 15 Taliban raiders dressed in US uniforms wiped out 7% of the US Military’s entire Harrier fleet and left only two operational Harriers in Afghanistan. I haven’t been able to get much detail, supposedly for security reasons but more probably because the truth is so embarrassing for the NATO, but it would appear the raiders got through a security fence at Camp Leatherneck, as the US Marine portion of the Bastion complex is known. They were carrying rocket propelled grenades, which it would appear they used to destroy six Harriers and so badly damage two more that they will never fly again. The raiders, at least some reportedly wearing suicide vests, then shot out with NATO troops for something like two hours. When the shooting was over, 14 of the Taliban were dead; along with two American soldiers including the commander of the Harrier squadron. A further eight NATO soldiers and a civilian contractor were wounded. The raid was obviously well planned and the Taliban knew what they were doing.
The attack raises a lot of questions, and it’s far from clear who should be answering them. Bastion is primarily a British base. Its site on a flat bare plain was chosen because no-one can supposedly approach it without being seen. So, did anyone see the Taliban? I just hope the British don’t have questions to answer. The Americans were seriously under-impressed by the British effort at Basra in Iraq and they didn’t think much of what the British have managed, or failed to manage, to do in Helmand.