Scores of Afghan troops have failed to show up while undergoing military training in the United States due to death threats, other potential violent acts and uncertain job prospects, according to a report issued Friday.
Of the 320 foreign military trainees who left U.S. military bases without permission since 2005, about half were Afghan nationals, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a monitoring agency that oversees reconstruction projects and other activities in Afghanistan.
The report said 152 Afghans went AWOL, or absent without leave. Seventy were relocated to other countries, 39 were granted asylum or some other legal status, and 27 were either arrested, deported or awaited processing for deportation.
About 6 percent of Afghans went AWOL, the report said, while trainees from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen and other countries fled their training courses at a collective rate of less than 1 percent.
SIGAR conducted interviews with some former and current trainees that revealed reasons behind the unauthorized departures. Seven Afghan trainees who were granted asylum and 35 current trainees cited potential acts of violence as a reason for abandoning their posts.
A female trainee said the Taliban threatened her family at their home in Afghanistan. Other trainees offered similar accounts. One trainee's family was attacked, forcing the family to flee. Other trainees feared their lives would be undermined due to their training if they returned to Afghanistan. And some feared they would no longer have their civilian jobs upon return. An aircraft electrician was told by other trainees who returned home that they were forced to pay bribes to return to work.
The report further raises concerns about the enormous costs of the 16-year U.S. military operation in Afghanistan. Some 2,200 U.S. troops have been killed there, as have thousands of civilians and other security forces.
The report estimated that nearly $70 billion has been spent to train and equip Afghan troops.