Missing Afghan military students in US raise alarms at Pentagon, DHS

The Pentagon announced that seven students from Afghanistan undergoing military training in the U.S. have gone AWOL.  This is not the first such incident.  In December of last year, two Afghan military students went missing from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.  And in 2014, students went AWOL from training in Massachusetts.

But what concerns authorities here is that the seven students disappeared around the time of the bombing in New York City and New Jersey by Afghan-born Ahmad Rahami, leading to speculation that the students could have connections to terrorism.

Washington Free Beacon:

“During the month of September, seven Afghan students were considered absent without leave (AWOL) during international military student programs,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans said.

Three of the Afghan military trainees fled from a Pentagon training program two weekends ago during the bombing spree in New York and New Jersey by Afghan-born bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami, raising concerns among security officials that the missing Afghan students may be linked to terrorism or plans for attacks in the United States.

The disappearance of the Afghans comes amid heightened fears of increasing Islamist terror attacks around the country. The attacks have included the New York area bombings and attempted bombings, a knife attack at a Minnesota mall by a Somali jihadist, and other regional shootings.

Two of the missing Afghans had been training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and one was training at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

An Army source said the Afghans who left the weekend of the New York area bombings appeared to be part of a coordinated effort. The three men are being probed for possible connections to Rahami. “Initial assessment is that there is not relation and the timing is coincidental,” the source said.

Evans declined to comment on whether the Pentagon has security concerns about the missing Afghans.

Sarah Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, said authorities are pursuing the Afghans.

“ICE Homeland Security Investigations is aware of the situation, and is actively working to locate these individuals in coordination with the State Department and the Department of Defense,” she said, declining specifics because of the ongoing investigation.

However, the service, which tracks illegal aliens, was notified of the missing Afghans.

Four other Afghan military trainees fled over the Labor Day weekend, two from Fort Benning, Georgia, one from Fort Lee, Virginia, and one from an Army facility in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A "coordinated" escape by at least three of the students from different locations is extremely disturbing.  If true, it would mean there was planning before the students even arrived in the U.S.  A logical question to ask would be just what else they may be planning.

Previous incidents of military students from Afghanistan going AWOL turned out to be harmless, with the two Massachusetts students getting caught at the Canadian border looking for asylum.

But there is a different feel to this incident and a more worried reaction from authorities.  You would hope that ICE is devoting sufficient resources to tracking them down and taking them into custody before we get a nasty surprise about their true motivations.

The Pentagon announced that seven students from Afghanistan undergoing military training in the U.S. have gone AWOL.  This is not the first such incident.  In December of last year, two Afghan military students went missing from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia.  And in 2014, students went AWOL from training in Massachusetts.

But what concerns authorities here is that the seven students disappeared around the time of the bombing in New York City and New Jersey by Afghan-born Ahmad Rahami, leading to speculation that the students could have connections to terrorism.

Washington Free Beacon:

“During the month of September, seven Afghan students were considered absent without leave (AWOL) during international military student programs,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Patrick L. Evans said.

Three of the Afghan military trainees fled from a Pentagon training program two weekends ago during the bombing spree in New York and New Jersey by Afghan-born bombing suspect Ahmad Rahami, raising concerns among security officials that the missing Afghan students may be linked to terrorism or plans for attacks in the United States.

The disappearance of the Afghans comes amid heightened fears of increasing Islamist terror attacks around the country. The attacks have included the New York area bombings and attempted bombings, a knife attack at a Minnesota mall by a Somali jihadist, and other regional shootings.

Two of the missing Afghans had been training at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and one was training at Fort Gordon, Georgia.

An Army source said the Afghans who left the weekend of the New York area bombings appeared to be part of a coordinated effort. The three men are being probed for possible connections to Rahami. “Initial assessment is that there is not relation and the timing is coincidental,” the source said.

Evans declined to comment on whether the Pentagon has security concerns about the missing Afghans.

Sarah Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service, said authorities are pursuing the Afghans.

“ICE Homeland Security Investigations is aware of the situation, and is actively working to locate these individuals in coordination with the State Department and the Department of Defense,” she said, declining specifics because of the ongoing investigation.

However, the service, which tracks illegal aliens, was notified of the missing Afghans.

Four other Afghan military trainees fled over the Labor Day weekend, two from Fort Benning, Georgia, one from Fort Lee, Virginia, and one from an Army facility in Little Rock, Arkansas.

A "coordinated" escape by at least three of the students from different locations is extremely disturbing.  If true, it would mean there was planning before the students even arrived in the U.S.  A logical question to ask would be just what else they may be planning.

Previous incidents of military students from Afghanistan going AWOL turned out to be harmless, with the two Massachusetts students getting caught at the Canadian border looking for asylum.

But there is a different feel to this incident and a more worried reaction from authorities.  You would hope that ICE is devoting sufficient resources to tracking them down and taking them into custody before we get a nasty surprise about their true motivations.