16 Afghan soldiers training in Alabama have gone AWOL

Afghan soldiers do push-ups trying to make the cut and be in the top 100 in their unit. (Department of Defense)
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(AL.com) — Sixteen Afghan soldiers stationed in Alabama are among 152 foreign trainees who have gone AWOL in the U.S. since 2005, according to a military report released last week.

The report from the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said 2,537 Afghan trainees have come to the U.S. since 2005, with 6 percent of them going absent without leave. The AWOL rate among trainees from other nationalities is less than 1 percent. Almost all the soldiers who fled during training were at the rank of lieutenant or captain.

The soldiers' absence is detrimental to training and equipping Afghan forces, the inspector general noted, and, due to restrictions in the investigatory and asylum process, they "may pose a security risk" due to their ages and military training.

AWOL incidents occurred at bases across the U.S. with Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas accounting for the largest number of missing trainees - 56. Sixteen of the trainees were from Alabama's Fort Rucker, home to the U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence; 13 from Fort Benning in Georgia; and 11 from Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri.

According to the report, as of March 7, 13 of the 152 AWOL soldiers were still at large; 70 had fled the U.S.; 39 gained legal status in the U.S.; and 27 were arrested, removed or in the process of being deported from the country. Three had returned to their training base.

The status of the AWOL soldiers by individual installation was not released.

More on this story at AL.com.
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