Watchdog: Pentagon Ends Afghan Pilot Training Program After Nearly Half Went AWOL Inside U.S.

Saturday, May 4, 2019
By Paul Martin

3 May 2019

The United States military “disbanded” a United States-based Afghan pilot training program after over 40 percent of the trainees went absent without leave (AWOL), the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a watchdog agency, revealed this week.

Although SIGAR did not provide updated data on if U.S. authorities captured the AWOL pilots, the watchdog agency reported in October 2017:

We found that nearly half of all foreign military trainees that went AWOL while training in the United States since 2005 were from Afghanistan (152 of 320). Of the 152 AWOL Afghan trainees, 83 either fled the United States after going AWOL or remain unaccounted for.

At the time, the watchdog agency deemed the unaccounted Afghan service members to be “high-risk.”

SIGAR’s latest quarterly report (January 1 to March 31, 2019) to Congress covers the training program involving the AC-208 Combat Caravan, a light attack combat aircraft.

John Sopko, the SIGAR chief, reported on May 1:

The AC-208 pilot training classes that were underway in the United States were disbanded due to the number of trainees who were going absent without leave (AWOL).

Those students that did not go AWOL were pulled back to Afghanistan to complete their training: as a result, only one class graduated from the U.S.-based program.

The second and third classes will continue and finish their training in Afghanistan. [NATO/U.S.-led Train, Advise, and Assist Commands] TAAC-Air has a plan to continue the student training and is developing a contract solution to support the effort to train the initial group of AC-208 aircrew. TAAC-Air said the C-208 trainees continue to progress to a self-sustaining level of proficiency.

“Over 40% of the AAF [Afghanistan Air Force] students enrolled in the U.S.-based training went AWOL,” the watchdog agency added, without providing a specific count for the number of pilots who went missing.

In 2016, Reuters learned from the Pentagon that at least 44 members of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which includes police and military units, had gone AWOL since January 2015, while training in the United States.

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