A program to train Afghan attack pilots has been ended after the airmen kept going absent without leave, or AWOL, while training in the United States.
More than 40 per cent of the Afghan Air Force students enrolled in the U.S.-based training program to fly the AC-208 Combat Caravan, a light attack combat aircraft, went AWOL, according to a quarterly report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.
“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 report says. “The second and third classes will continue and finish their training in Afghanistan.”
The training took place at Fort Worth, Texas, SIGAR told Air Force Times. Northrop Grumman operates a 5,000 square-foot custom-built classroom space located at Meacham Airport in Fort Worth.
“The AC-208 Training Center of Excellence is designed to provide partner nations with instructional classroom activities and initial aircrew and maintenance training on the Northrop Grumman modified AC-208 Eliminator aircraft,” a Northrop Grumman press release reads.
The AC-208 is essentially a Cessna that carries some Hellfire missiles. After the U.S. military withdrew from Iraq in 2011, the Iraq air force used a handful of the aircraft to take potshots at ISIS because it lacked adequate attack helicopters and jet fighters.
Aficionados of U.S. military efforts to train Afghan troops will find this latest revelation familiar. Two Afghan A-29 pilots disappeared in December 2015 while training at Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. Before that, three Afghan officers who went missing in Cape Cod were found near Niagara Falls on the Canadian border. One of the officers was later granted asylum.
The first female Afghan pilot was also granted asylum after she continuously received death threats, according to the Wall Street Journal.
However, the phenomenon is neither new nor limited to Afghan Air Force trainees.
Nearly half of all foreign military trainees that went AWOL while training in the United States since 2005 was from Afghanistan (152 of 320),” SIGAR reported in October 2017.
“Of the 152 AWOL Afghan trainees, 83 either fled the United States after going AWOL or remain unaccounted for.”