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