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AWOL Afghans: Pentagon downplays danger of soldiers who visit and vanish as ‘no cause for alarm’

They come to the U.S. to train for the mission of safeguarding their country, but Afghan soldiers often decide they don’t want to go back.

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On Monday, a trio of soldiers, here for a wide-ranging training program that has been in place for a decade, was caught at the Canadian border after disappearing from a base on Cape Cod Saturday. They were just the latest group of Afghan soldiers to try to melt into the North American population. While authorities have not said what their motive might have been, AWOL Afghan soldiers have previously sought asylum, claimed to be merely sightseeing or simply never been found. So far, none has posed a terror threat, according to officials.

This bulletin issued by Joint Base Cape Cod shows three officers from the Afghanistan National Army who disappeared for three days before being found near Canada.

This bulletin issued by Joint Base Cape Cod shows three officers from the Afghanistan National Army who disappeared for three days before being found near Canada.

“There is a lot of speculation within the military that they may be trying to defect,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick said of the three who were found Monday.

Since 2004, soldiers and pilots from Afghanistan and other nations have taken part in what are known as Regional Cooperation training exercises to promote cooperation and interoperability among forces, build functional capacity, practice peacekeeping operations and enhance readiness. And with the U.S. drawing down troop levels in Afghanistan, the program is crucial to getting Kabul’s defense ministry more self-sufficient.

 

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