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Two senior Marine generals forced to retire over deadly Afghan attack

Two senior Marine Corps generals are being forced into retirement for failing to take adequate action before an attack last year at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan that killed two Marines and destroyed a fleet of Harrier jets, officials announced Monday.

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Gegg Sturdevant in a 2008 picture. Jacquelyn Martin / AP file

The Commandant of the Marine Corps has asked both Maj. Gen. Charles Gurganus and Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant to retire in the wake of several investigations as well as a review by the U.S. Central Command into accountability for the attack.

A statement from the Marine Corps said Gurganus "bore final accountability for the lives and equipment under his charge," and that he "made an error in judgment when conducting his risk assessment of the enemy's capabilities and intentions."

The statement went on to say that Sturdevant "did not adequately assess the force protection situation" at Bastion Airfield.

Gurganus, who was the overall Commander of Regional Command Southwest at the time of the September 2012 attack, had been nominated for his third star and was to take over as Chief of Marine Corps staff at the Pentagon. His nomination will be rescinded.

Sturdevant, who commanded the aviation arm of the Marine element at Bastion during the attack, will receive a Secretary of the Navy Letter of Censure. However, both men will retire honorably and with full benefits.

U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. Charles M. Gurganus pictured in 2007. Ali Abbas / AP file

The September 14-15, 2012 complex attack resulted in the deaths of Lt. Col. Christopher Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell. Eight other service members were wounded and six aircraft (Harrier jets) were destroyed.

The assault remains one of the most brazen, highly-coordinated attacks on a military compound in Afghanistan in more than a decade of war. In addition to the loss of life, Harrier jets run about $24 million each -- making it one of the most expensive attacks of the war, as well.

One senior U.S. defense official told NBC News that Gurganus' punishment does not go far enough, and that if Gurganus was not a general he would have faced a court martial, not been allowed to retire with full benefits.

"Marines are dead and six aircraft were destroyed. A Lance Corporal would fry for a lot less than that," the official said.

Speaking to accountability, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos wrote:

“Our Marines have a right to demand that in return for their loyalty, selfless sacrifice, and brave service, the commanders in whom the nation has entrusted its sons and daughters will take all appropriate steps to ensure their safety and well-being.”

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