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Missing Afghan Soldiers Found

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Mark Stricherz - published on 09/23/14 - updated on 06/07/17

Three days after they went missing from training session, found at Niagara Falls

WASHINGTON – They were lost in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Now they are found near the Canadian border.

Three missing Afghan soldiers turned up at a tourist site at Niagara Falls after eluding authorities since the weekend, according to multiple news outlets. The Boston Herald has the details of the soldiers’ capture:

The three Afghanistan National Army officers who were reported missing have been put into custody at Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls, the state police tell the Herald today.

The officers were part of an international military training exercise at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod and they disappeared without explanation.

The state police told the Herald today the three "presented themselves" to border authorities at
Rainbow Bridge — a world-famous tourist site that links the U.S. and Canada at Niagara Falls. They are expected to be brought back at some point, a law enforcement source said.

Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar were all last seen at Cape Cod Mall on Saturday, the day they were reported missing, said Massachusetts National Guard Col. James Sahady. The Herald was told today all three are now being interviewed by federal authorities.

Law enforcement officials assured reporters that the missing members of the Afghan National Army posed no threat to Americans. According to the Boston Globe, the soldiers may have strayed from their joint training exercise in Cape Cod to seek asylum in Canada:

The Afghans may have been motivated to remain in the West by the continued political turmoil in their country, including a recently deadlocked election to replace Hamid Karzai with a new president.

“People are concerned about the uncertainty in the country and the future, particularly young people,” said Ali Amhed Jalali, a former Afghan interior minister. “Many just want a better life. I sense this might be the reason for [the soldiers] to leave the country.”

The months-long standoff over the election result, followed by a disputed runoff, was finally settled Sunday with an agreement to establish a unity government.

In recent years there have been many cases of Afghans traveling abroad and then never returning, including “low-level officers but also high-ranking officials,” Jalali said.

“The violence influences many people. It is not just people who are leaving but people who are taking their money out of the country,” said Jalali, who teaches at the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, which is part of the US Department of Defense.

William Joyce, a Boston immigration lawyer and retired immigration judge, said the men would need to demonstrate a “well-founded fear of persecution” to be granted asylum. Years of war and ongoing political instability would give the men “a fighting chance” to receive political asylum, he said. “I think they are good candidates,” he said. “It’s a Third World country with a lot of discord.”

The men could live here legally until their case was heard, a process that could take months or even years, he said.

“They are entitled to pursue a claim like anyone else,” he said.

Mark Stricherz
covers Washington for Aleteia. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.
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