Two Afghan military students training this month at Fort Benning are among seven Afghans considered AWOL, according to a military spokesman.
The two Fort Benning students went missing over Labor Day weekend, Patrick L. Evans, commander of the U.S. Navy Defense Press Operations, stated Thursday in an email.
That same weekend two other Afghan military students, one from Fort Lee, Va., and one in Little Rock, Ark., also left their posts without leave.
The weekend of Sept. 7-18, three more students, two at Fort Leonard Wood, Kan., and one at Fort Gordon, Ga., were discovered missing, Evans said.
Fort Benning public affairs officials referred all questions to Evans and the U.S. Navy Defense Press Operations. It is unclear what schools or training the Afghan military students were receiving at Fort Benning, a major Army training installation.
“It is important to note that the majority of Afghans who train in the U.S. successfully complete their training and return to their country,” Evans said in an email. “However, there have been occasions where (the International Military Student Office has) learned of plans to go AWOL. In some of those cases, those students have been returned immediately to their country.”
Evans referred all questions about the current status of the military students to the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations is aware of the situation, and is working in coordination with the State Department and the Department of Defense,” ICE Public Affairs Officer Carissa Cutrell responded in an email. “Specific details regarding these activities are not available at this time.”
The U.S. has been fighting in Afghanistan for about 15 years, attempting stabilize that nation’s government. Fort Benning soldiers, including the elite 75th Ranger Regiment, have spent considerable time in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban. As part of that process, Afghanistan soldiers have been trained by the U.S. military in their home country and in this country.