The Camp Bastion Caper – US Marines, the MV-22 Osprey, and the Taliban Warlord

Photo by Lance Cpl. Clarence Leake/USMC

2009, Camp Bastion, Afghanistan, Helmand Province: In 2009, about 100 miles from USMC Camp Bastion, a Taliban warlord took over a local village and was using his poppy (opium) proceeds to buy more weapons. Camp Bastion was a large US Marine encampment that included British and Tongan troops, and they weren’t thrilled about the warlord’s proximity.

Screenshot U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Clare J. Shaffer
Camp Bastion- screenshot

Taliban Warlord watchers

The Taliban were also timing the different aircraft at Camp Bastion. They knew exactly when and how long it took for the aircraft to leave and return. They knew how many troops each kind of aircraft held. A Chinook helicopter (CH-36E) had a shorter combat radius and would’ve had to fly in a straight line across the desert for about a half hour. Not optimum when the Taliban had watchers and knew the timing of the flights.

Newly placed in country aircraft, the MV 22-B Osprey, could fly faster (316 MPH) and had a longer range than the helicopters (about 1,000 miles).

Image screenshot via WeAreTheMighty

About 100 Marines loaded into the MV-22B Ospreys and took off for the village. According to WeAreTheMighty, the aircraft avoided the Taliban and touched down inside the village. Within 5 minutes, the Taliban warlord was in handcuffs and on board the tiltrotor Osprey. Somehow, the Osprey was able to take the Taliban by surprise for the victory. Here is a recreation of that mission:


Unfortunately, on September 14, 2012, fifteen Taliban dressed as American soldiers attacked the East side of Camp Bastion, killing two Marines, and destroying at least 6 AV-8B Harriers, damaging 2 others and a C-130. It was one of the worst losses of aircraft since the Vietnam War. The Osprey were on board a Navy ship at the time of the attack.

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…

Squadron Commander Lt Col Chris Raible ran 150 metres across open ground under fire. He was carrying only his service pistol.

As he lay down, shooting at the insurgents, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby, killing him.

Sgt Bradley Atwell was also killed by an RPG as he pushed forward with a counter-attack.


US Marines were often involved in major actions in Afghanistan. Camp Bastion has been renamed Camp Shorabak, but with the withdrawal of both US and NATO troops, it will likely be abandoned.


Featured photo: Screenshot: Photo by Lance Cpl. Clarence Leake/USMC

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