Friday, October 07, 2016

EDITORIAL >> More Afghans going AWOL

The disappearance of eight Afghan soldiers from U.S. military installations in September may be the tip of the iceberg, according to Reuters reporter Idrees Ali.

The Defense Department says the eight were not working as a group.

That includes one who disappeared from Little Rock Air Force Base over Labor Day weekend.

A program was created to train them to work with and take over from the U.S. to make their country safe from the Taliban, which has proved to be immensely difficult.

They variously received training in leadership, language, infantry, aircrew, intelligence, engineering, military police, ordnance, transportation and Army Ranger training.

Twenty-two hundred Afghan soldiers have come to U.S. installations since 2007, and 45 have gone AWOL since January 2015.

Of those, 32 have been arrested or deported by Homeland Security, leaving 13 currently unaccounted for—and eight of those went AWOL only in September.

We understand why a soldier from Afghanistan would want to “relocate” to the U.S., and one was turned back recently at the Canadian border. Poverty, health and war are so bad that these guys might even be happy to sneak across the border to Mexico.

And little wonder, the 2015 United Nations Human Development Index ranked Afghanistan 171st among 188 countries. Even Mexico is ranked 74th (that’s high). The U.S. was eighth. Norway, Australia and Switzerland are the top three.

The average Afghan’s life expectancy is 44.5 years, about 20 years shorter than citizens in neighboring countries.

One-quarter have sought refuge outside the country, and 3.6 million remain refugees. One-fifth of the children die before the age of 5, most from preventable diseases. Only 25 percent have access to clean drinking water, and one in eight children die from lack of clean water.

It’s hardly a wonder their elite soldiers disappear when they get the chance to train in this country. Still, let’s hope they’re all caught and sent home soon.