WASHINGTON - Prince Harry slept through a devastating attack on Camp Bastion which left 18 soldiers killed or wounded, reported Daily Mail on Saturday citing US military files.
It was originally alleged in a magazine article by GQ magazine that the Prince, who had just arrived at the base in his role as an Apache helicopter pilot, was rushed to a ‘safe house’ for his protection during the attack. The MoD later denied the claims, saying he had been ‘treated much the same as any [other] service member deployed to Camp Bastion’.
But newly released US military files that were previously marked ‘secret’ reveal that the young royal, alongside other soldiers, slept through the attack.
In the documents, Major General Sturdevant is quoted to have said ‘The night of the attack, he slept through the entire thing.’ He also reiterated that the royal was treated like any other serviceman while at the base, and the only special treatment he received was ‘a place identified as a safe house in case the base came under attack.’
Both the Ministry of Defence and Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the revelations, published in the Independent. Sources close to the Prince on Saturday, however, suggested he was aware that an attack had taken place. The attack, in September 2012, saw 15 Taliban fighters - dressed in American uniforms - walk past an unmanned watch tower and on to the airfield at Camp Bastion, home to 30,000 troops.
They opened fire with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades. Two US Marines were killed, with 16 other soldiers left injured.
Eight American aircraft worth more than $200million (£124million) were also destroyed.
The US took over responsibility for security following the attack - blaming senior US personnel for disregarding warnings of possible attacks - despite security on site being the responsibly of British Commanders.
On Monday, two generals from the US Marines, including Maj-Gen Gregg Sturdevant, stepped down from their roles.
The young royal is currently on tour in Australia, representing the Queen on his first official visit to the country.
The Independent also reported today that recommendations to strengthen security at the base were rejected by the MoD on cost grounds just six months before the attack.
Secret papers the newspaper say they have seen reveal the MoD refused to pay for a fence to protect the airfield despite a recommendation by British officers’ in March 2012.
The recommendation was made after an attempted suicide attack on the runway where a plane carrying the US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had just landed.
One of the papers, a review by the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), reads: ‘A statement of requirements (SOR) was generated to request the preferred course of action: the installation of an airfield perimeter fence ... This SOR was initially sent through UK chain of command for approval; however, it was denied on the basis of cost [vs] security gains.’
In another document, a senior US officer, whose name is redacted, states: ‘Every airfield that I’ve ever been [to] has a fence around to help protect it.’
The officer goes on to say that the ease with which the base was penetrated was correlated to Britain’s inability to finance the fence.
The papers also suggest that a number of watch towers were left unmanned before the attack.
A statement by Maj-Gen Sturdevant reveals that he did not realise until after the attack that the towers were unmanned, adding: ‘the Brits were embarrassed. They knew that they had screwed up.’
He added: ‘For the tower to be unmanned with the terrain out there, I questioned that.’
On Monday, two generals from the US Marines, Maj-Gen Charles Gurganus and Maj-Gen Gregg Sturdevant, who is quoted in the papers, were forced to retire when the report was published.
None of the British officers in charge at the base has faced any sanction.
Stuart Skeates CBE, Maj-Gen Gurganus’s former deputy, who was awarded a Queen’s Commendation for Valuable Service yesterday – is now the Commandant of the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
Jeff Portlock, the Bastion base commander on the night of the attack, has been promoted from group captain to Air Commodore.
Tonight the MoD was urged to investigate.
In response to the report, an MoD spokesman has said: ‘The UK has contributed fully to a number of Isaf, US and UK reviews; as a result, force protection measures at Camp Bastion have been reviewed and are appropriate to current threat levels.
‘The US review was intended to examine US actions only and not those of coalition forces. However, the UK will consider the findings of this review to confirm our earlier assessment that no further UK action is required.
‘It would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.” But Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, said that Britain must accept responsibility for failing to protect the base.
‘There is no doubt that security failings on the part of both British and American forces contributed to the attack on Camp Bastion.
‘If British commanders were culpable then, like their American counterparts, I would expect disciplinary action to be taken. Questions do need to be answered.
‘If a fence was required but not built due to cost this is a very serious matter. Several times the Prime Minister has assured us that adequate funds will always be provided for operations in Afghanistan.’
British forces are now preparing to leave Afghanistan by the end of next year.
The revelation that the Government decided not to pay for greater protection for the base comes just days after Prime Minister David Cameron used his speech to the Conservative conference to praise the bravery of the armed forces and lead a standing ovation in the conference hall.