WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill is continuing to seek answers after a report showed that a significant number of Afghan military trainees went missing after coming to the United States for training, requesting details on what Immigration and Customs Enforcement is doing to locate Afghan trainees who went Absent Without Leave (AWOL).
From 2005 to 2017, 2,537 individuals from Afghanistan came to the United States for training through various programs, including Counter Drug Training Support, International Military Education and Training, and multiple military leadership courses. Since 2005, 152 of the trainees have gone AWOL, including 11 from Missouri’s Ft. Leonard Wood. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is responsible for finding AWOL trainees.
“It’s a national security risk when Afghan trainees go unaccounted for after training at military bases in Missouri and across the country,” McCaskill said. “We need answers on what the government is doing to locate AWOL trainees and prevent them from going AWOL in the first place.”
McCaskill wrote the Department of Homeland Security, of which Immigration and Customs Enforcement is a part, asking for more details on challenges the agency faces in finding AWOL trainees and what the agency is doing to improve inter-agency coordination in order to do so more quickly. McCaskill also requested an update on the current status of AWOL trainees, including those who fled from Missouri’s Ft. Leonard Wood. “Afghan trainees going AWOL creates coordination challenges that heighten risks to our national security and public safety,” McCaskill wrote in her letter to DHS Acting Secretary Elaine Duke.
McCaskill previously requested answers from the Defense Department over its role running the program and preventing trainees from going AWOL. She is awaiting answers from the agency.
McCaskill has served on both the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and Armed Services Committee since joining the Senate in 2007, and has made protecting American families at home and abroad a top priority. Earlier this year, HSGAC approved McCaskill’s bipartisan bill to help determine weaknesses in security following a terrorist attack. McCaskill has continued to fight for counterterrorism funding during a HSGAC hearing with the FBI Director, the Homeland Security Acting Secretary, and the National Counterterrorism Center Director. She also called for answers from the Defense Department following a contract that left taxpayers on the hook for over $50 million in questionable costs, including seven luxury vehicles and $400,000 average salaries for significant others of corporate officers to serve as “executive assistants.”