ARLINGTON, Va. — The Pentagon today said that the U.S. government has pinpointed the whereabouts of most — but not all — of dozens of Afghan troops who came to the United States for training and went AWOL.
Reuters reported today that 44 Afghan troops have gone missing since January 2015, including eight who have left U.S. bases without authorization since last month alone.
Pentagon press secretary Peter Cook told reporters today that all Afghan trainees who come to the United States “first of all go through a vetting process to be able to qualify to come here to the United States.”
“In those instances where they have gone missing — and this has been something we’ve had to deal with over the years — we’ve been training Afghans in this country for some time. I think more than 2,000 have been trained even in the last few years alone — there’s a notification process that we go through, of course trying to determine where these people are,” Cook said.
“Of the people who have been missing in — over the last two years or so, I believe the number that was provided to you was somewhere around 40 — more than 40 individuals; 32, we understand the status of those people.”
He added that “every effort’s made to try to determine where these people are going, what the reasons are.”
“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 continued. “And so there are different explanations for each one of these circumstances.”
“But these are people who have been vetted. And again, when there is someone who is officially considered absent without leave, there is a very formal process in which we notify not only the Department of Homeland Security but also Customs and Immigration Enforcement, certainly the Afghan government. There are a range of steps that are taken in each and every case to try and determine the status of those individuals.”
A defense official told Reuters that, while other foreign troops visiting the U.S. for training have likewise run off, the number of Afghan troops going AWOL was “out of the ordinary.”
An Afghan solider has to be missing from a U.S. base for 24 hours before DHS is notified.