Afghan trainees have gone AWOL in U.S. since 2005

Afghan trainees have gone AWOL in U.S. since 2005”

Of the 320 foreign military trainees who left US military bases without permission since 2005, about half were Afghan nationals, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a monitoring agency that oversees reconstruction projects and other activities in Afghanistan.

Afghan soldiers and police brought to the United States for training go "absent without leave" at far higher rates than those of any other country, potentially imperilling efforts to assist Afghan security forces, a US watchdog said on Friday.

The problem grew worse past year, and a report Friday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction says it expects little or no improvement anytime soon.

In 2016, for example, the percentage of Afghan trainees who went AWOL (absent without leave) jumped from an historical average of about 6 or 7 percent to 13 percent, the report noted. Seven Afghan trainees who were granted asylum and 35 current trainees cited potential acts of violence as a reason for abandoning their posts.

"One trainee stated that after she left for training, the Taliban visited her home and threatened her family because of her involvement with the U.S. Two others stated that their families had received threatening letters or phone calls from the Taliban, and another claimed that his family had been attacked due to his training in the U.S.", the report said.

Among the 152 Afghan trainees who went absent, 83 fled the US or remain unaccounted for. The State Department and other agencies "should use all the tools at their disposal to reduce these occurrences and ensure that Afghan trainees return to Afghanistan and make use of the substantial USA taxpayer investment in training". An aircraft electrician was told by other trainees who returned home that they were forced to pay bribes to return to work. Almost 16 years after USA troops first arrived in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban government, the program is part of an effort to shift more responsibility for the country's security to local forces.

Between 2005 and 2017 the US military brought more than 2,500 Afghan soldiers and police to the United States for training, including programs that trained pilots for the nascent Afghan Air Force and special forces, according to SIGAR.

Those who have run off during their training also "have hindered the operational readiness of home units", because it's led to a reduction in courses being offered to Afghan troops, the report found.

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