Pentagon officials say 45 Afghan troops visiting the U.S. for military training have gone missing from their assignments in less than two years, presumably in an effort to live and work illegally in America.
“Eight Afghan students training at U.S. facilities were reported Absent Without Leave (AWOL) in September,” Adam Stump, a Defense Department spokesman told Anadolu Agency.
Stump said an Afghan student was caught at the Canadian border by Canadian police while attempting to enter Canada from the U.S.
He said 25 Afghan troops were reported missing in 2015, and 20 were AWOL in 2016.
The Pentagon is assessing “ways to strengthen the eligibility criteria for training in ways that will reduce the likelihood of an individual Afghan willingly absconding from training in the U.S. and going AWOL”, Stump added.
He said the Afghans reported missing were in various stages of training on a variety of topics, including leadership, language, infantry, aircrew, intelligence, engineering, military police, ordnance, transportation and Army Ranger.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook told reporters Thursday the U.S. has trained more than 2,000 troops on American soil but “this has been something we’ve had to deal with over the years”.
Of the 45 trainees who have left, the Pentagon knows where 32 are and their reason for leaving. “In some cases they’ve gone home. In some cases there have been efforts — as I understand it — to go to Canada. Some have sought to legally remain in the United States,” Cook said.
He added that the Pentagon notified the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Immigration Enforcement, and the Afghan government about the missing troops.
The U.S. has trained 2,207 Afghans in U.S.-based programs since the 2007 fiscal year and, nearly 14,000 Afghans have been trained in and out of the U.S., according to Stump.