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Missing in America: Afghan Soldiers


Mark Stricherz - published on 09/22/14

Pentagon Says They Pose No Threat, but Now US Central Command is Looking

Three Afghan soldiers have disappeared after visiting a mall in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, according to multiple media outlets. CBS News said the soldiers slipped off from a larger group:

They disappeared while on a group tour of the mall, which was part of a "cultural" day during a multinational table-top exercise in peacekeeping. The three were part of a larger group of foreign military officers who were being escorted by U.S. personnel. The officers were not required to surrender their passports, so they could still have them.

The soldiers could be anywhere, including a fast-food joint, according to Fox News:

Massachusetts National Guard spokesman Lt. Col. James Sahady told the Cape Cod Times that the men “had the freedom to come and go.”

"If they were off-duty, they could go to McDonald’s or the mall,” he said.

Afghan soldiers have gone missing before, according to CNN:

Earlier this month, two Afghan police officers training with the DEA wandered off during a sightseeing trip to Georgetown,
CNN affiliate WJLA reported.

They decided they wanted to stay in the United States, but authorities found them and sent them home.

Do the soldiers represent a threat to public safety? A Pentagon official told CBS News that after examining the background of the missing Afghan National Guard soldiers, U.S. officials said they have concluded they do not:

A Pentagon official told CBS News correspondent David Martin that "based on extensive vetting we believe" the soldiers
— one major and two captains

"pose no threat."

The Afghan soldiers arrived in the United States to participate in a regular multinational military exercise, according to Reuters:

The annual event is a way to foster better cooperation and military readiness between participating countries and has been running since 2004. Roughly 200 soldiers from six nations, including 15 from Afghanistan, were participating in this year’s exercise, Sahady said.

Several federal agencies had shared responsibility for tracking down the soldiers, according to CBS News:

The Pentagon has provided local law enforcement with their photos. A number of local and federal agencies, including the FBI and the State Department are looking for them.

Now a new agency has taken over the search, according to the Associated Press:

U.S. Central Command is taking over the search for the three missing Afghan National
Army Soldiers.

Mark Stricherz is based in Washington. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.

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