AWOL

150 Afghan Soldiers Fled After Being Sent Stateside for Training

According to the latest report from an official U.S. government watchdog, promising Afghan recruits, who had been sent stateside for military training, have fled in substantial numbers. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) found that at least 152 Afghan trainees have gone AWOL after arriving on stateside military bases. As many as 83 of those trainees remain unaccounted for. Most often, SIGAR found, AWOL Afghans cite “personal/family safety concerns and perceived job insecurity in Afghanistan following training.” Five Afghan trainees told SIGAR that their lives were in danger from the Taliban because of the basic fact that they came to America for training. Three others said the Taliban threatened their families for the same reason; a fourth reported an actual attack on his relatives. “Currently, the perception amongst Afghan students is that Canada is a sanctuary for absconders,” SIGAR noted. An astonishing 103 of the 152 known AWOL trainees are officers—specifically, junior officers, responsible for leading the platoons and companies tasked with frontline combat against the Taliban. Another 19 are noncommissioned officers, the sergeants who form the backbone of unit discipline, standards, and espirit de corps. In theory, the creation of a functional Afghan military is critical to America mitigating any extrication from its longest-ever war.

—Spencer Ackerman