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Criticism of Tongan soldiers unfair, says Captain

Nuku'alofa, Tonga

When Taliban fighters infiltrated Camp Bastion between Towers16 and 15 in September 2012, Tower 16 was not manned and was not supposed to be manned by Tongans, Captain Toni Fonokalafi, the Acting Commander of the Tongan Armed Forces said, in answering criticism of Tongan soliders serving in Afghanistan that appeared in US news media, attributed to senior US military sources, last week.

Toni said that at the time of the incident the Tongan Marines were manning only six of the 13 watchtowers, which were left under the care of the British Armed Forces.

There are a total of 48 watchtowers surrounding Camp Bastion, which Toni estimated covered about the same land area as the whole of Nuku‘alofa.

He said that because there was a scale down in the security of the camp only 24 of the 48 watchtowers were manned, and the Tongans, “manned Towers no. 15 and 17, but not 16.”

Toni said that the Taliban intruders entered the camp between the unmanned Tower no. 16 and the Tower no. 15 manned by Tongans.

He said that it was not fair to imply that the Tongan soldiers were asleep, “when the attack took place so early in the evening, about 10 pm.”

Toni believed that a drop in the level of security in the camp in general, enabled the Taliban to filter into the camp, taking into account that Tower no. 16 was not manned and there were also hills between towers, which estimated to be about 500 or 600 meters apart.

However Toni said that following the attack, the Tongan marines had been manning eight towers, and they also have increased the number of marines who were stationed in each tower from three to four, and they are on duty 24 hours, with two on watch while the other two have a rest.

Toni said that the duties of Tongan marines at Camp Bastion included:

  • Part of the Security Force at the Main Entry point into the camp (during the day)
  • Provide security at airports - flight lines, a 24-hour service.
  • Night patrolling of camp.
  • Operation Malaki (security check of contractors at the camp).

See earlier article: Tongan soldiers criticized after Taliban raid


Given these facts, it is more the pity that our military commanders didn't make their views known or heard at the right time and to direct their response to the media running our men down and to seek a retraction and/or correction for the record. The claim that Tongans were renowned for sleeping on the job was widely reported although unsourced. In the aftermath when two US generals were demoted for this incident, the involvement of our troops would have been part of the enquiry which followed. Captain Fonokalafi's account would have been part of the enquiry and the facts should be used to clear our contingent of any blame if that was the case. It goes without saying that as none of our men were cited or found to have been culpable, it would be reasonable to get an official statement to that effect from the British authorities under which they served. Our men on duty deserve better than this.

Sefita Hao'uli

'Oku 'iloa 'a Palesiteni Obama 'i 'Amelikani ko e 'Blaming President'. Koe'uhi he ko e me'a kotoa pe 'oku fehalaaki 'i he pule'anga 'Amelika, kuo ne 'blame' 'e ia 'a Palesiteni Bush, Reagan, Republicans, Gongress (belong to Republican Party) etc. 'Oku 'ikai ha taimi ia 'e tali ai 'e he Palesiteni ko'eni, na'ane fai ha me'a 'oku hala (take the responsibility). 'Oku lolotonga tapuni 'a e Pule'amga 'Amelika he taimini, pea 'oku kei 'blame' pe 'e he palesiteni ia 'a e 'Republic party' ki he tapuni ko'eni, neongo ko e palesiteni ia pea mo totonu ke 'responsible' ki he tapuni 'a e pule'anga. 'Oku tatau pe mo 'ene kau 'eiki-tau 'oku nau taki 'i he mgaahi mala'e-tau. Ko 'ene fehalaaki pe ha me'a 'i he mala'e-tau, kuo nau fakasiosio 'enautolu ha taha ke tukuaki'i, hange pe koia 'oku hoko ki he'etau fanau sotia 'i Afghanistan. 'Oku masivesiva 'aupito 'i he kau taki 'o e fonua ni ke nau tali ha'anau fehalaaki. Pea neongo ai 'a e totonu mo e mo'oni 'a e vaivai, te nau hala pe kinautolu. Fefe ke tau 'say sorry' pe kitautolu ki he mohe ko'eni kae vave, pea na'a ongoongolelei ai 'a e kau 'eiki-tau ko'eni 'o foaki atu ha ki'i 'grants' ke tokoni ki Tonga. SAIA