Two Afghan trainees have gone missing from a U.S. Air Force base in Georgia, reports the New York Times. The two men, student pilots from Afghanistan, were training at Moody Air Force Base in Georgia as part of a training program conducted in conjunction with the Afghan Air Force.
An Air Force spokesman told the New York Times that the two men do not pose any apparent threat — that these kinds of disappearances are not uncommon.
The missing trainees were scheduled to graduate from the training program and return to Afghanistan in 2018. Lt. Col. Christopher P. Karns, the Air Force Spokesman for Moody Air Force Base, said the two men did not report for maintenance duty with the 81st Fighter Squadron on Monday morning.
The last contact with the missing trainees was on Friday, December 4, when the two men went off-base over the weekend.
The Air Force Spokesman was quick to note that no weapons were missing from the base, and the two men are not believed to be a security threat. The search for the missing trainees is being conducted with local and federal law enforcement to ensure their “safe return.”
The missing trainees were two of a class of nine Afghan pilots and twelve other Afghan aircraft maintenance students who are a part of the training program on Moody Air Force Base. The students are trained both in classrooms and on the flight line, Lt. Col. Karns told USA Today.
The Air Force has not released their ages or identifying information to the press, but has confirmed that the two men arrived in the U.S. over a year ago, and have been stationed at Moody Air Force base since February of this year. As part of their selection for the training program, the missing trainees underwent an extensive background check, and they are not believed to pose any threat to the public.
The two missing trainees aren’t the first Afghan military personnel to go AWOL from U.S. military bases while taking part in a training program. After experiencing the dramatic difference between life in the U.S. and life in Afghanistan, some don’t want to go back to their homes, and would rather stay here.
This was the case in 2010, when seventeen Afghan soldiers walked off of a military base in Texas, of whom four had been arrested by U.S. immigration officials and deported back to Afghanistan. Eight others crossed the border into Canada, where they sought political asylum, and two others later sought legal residency in the U.S.
In 2010, following the disappearance of seventeen other Afghan trainees, the New York Times reports that immigration officials claim defections like these are fairly common by soldiers training in the U.S. – particularly if they come from a country where life is difficult. In cases like these, the missing trainees are often treated no differently than students who overstay their visas on U.S. soil.
“There is no information that any of these individuals pose a national security threat. Previous indications are that such foreign military deserters typically do so solely for the prospects of a better life,” read a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement shortly after the disappearance of seventeen Afghan trainees in 2010.
Back in 2010, the Fort Hood shooting caused these disappearances to attract the national spotlight. Similarly, the recent shooting in San Bernardino has caused the news of these two missing trainees to raise some alarms.
But, as the Air Force has stated on several occasions since the announcement of the missing trainees, the men are not believed to pose any security threat.
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