In the past two weeks, seven trainees from Afghanistan who were participating in a Department of Defense training program for foreign soldiers have vanished from the U.S. military bases where they were being trained.
“It’s concerning, and legitimately so,” said Georgia State University security and counterterrorism expert Robert Friedmann.
Friedmann doubts the timing is a coincidence.
“It’s fairly likely that it was coordinated, because that’s too much of a coincidence,” he said.
The same weekend that an Afghanistan native exploded bombs in New York City and New Jersey, two trainees disappeared from Fort Benning, Ga., one from Fort Lee, Va., and one from Little Rock, Ark..
Two weeks later, one Afghan soldier left Fort Gordon, Ga.,, and two disappeared from Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.
“Planning, critical thinking, company commander level and challenge staff level, it’s a great experience for me,” an Iraqi soldier said in a video about the program on Fort Benning’s website.
It’s unclear why the Afghan trainees have left.
“It could be that the students get into the program not because they want to be better military professionals, but because they see it as a vehicle to come to the country and then move on to some other purposes,” Friedmann said.
While not pushing the panic button, Friedmann said “the integrity of the program clearly needs to be improved.”