Afghan soldiers and police who train in the United States go "absent without leave," or AWOL, at far higher rates than those of any other country, possibly jeopardizing efforts to assist Afghan security forces, a U.S. watchdog says.
Out of a total of 320 foreign military trainees who left during courses in the United States from 2005 to 2017, 152 -- or almost half -- were Afghans, a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said on October 20.
The U.S. State Department said that number is "unacceptably high."
SIGAR said the number of asylum seekers among Afghan military trainees rose over the last years as Taliban violence spread across the country and security forces sustained heavy casualties.
Only 27 of the Afghans who went AWOL in the United States have been arrested or removed by U.S. police, SIGAR said, with most of the other 83 either unaccounted for or having fled the country.
"The tendency of Afghan trainees in the United States to go AWOL may hinder the operational readiness of their home units, negatively impact the morale of fellow trainees and home units, and pose security risks to the United States," the report concluded.
Many of the Afghans who seek asylum in the United States say their lives would be in danger if they returned home.