WASHINGTON – Following efforts from U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill to get answers over more than 150 Afghan military personnel training in the United States that have gone missing—including from Missouri’s Ft. Leonard Wood—McCaskill confirmed today that the AWOL trainees in Missouri have been accounted for and requested additional answers on what the U.S. government is doing to better track foreign military trainees in Missouri and across the country.
“The fact that there were ever Afghan military personnel unaccounted for in Missouri is deeply concerning, and I’m glad to get answers from the Defense Department showing that they’ve all been accounted for—however, it’s clear that there’s more the government can do to prevent this moving forward,” McCaskill said. “Protecting the security of Missourians and all Americans is one of my most important responsibilities as a Senator, and I’m committed to getting to the bottom of how the government will do a better job of keeping track of foreign military personnel in the U.S.”
McCaskill first raised concerns to the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security last year, requesting answers on the current status of Afghan trainees in the United States and details on how the agencies work together to locate those who go missing. The Defense Department informed McCaskill that all 11 AWOL trainees from Missouri’s Ft. Leonard Wood have been accounted for, but that as of February 2018, nine of the more than 150 who went AWOL nationally remain unaccounted for.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction reported that limited vetting of visas for Afghan trainees can make it more difficult to locate those who go missing, and that it can be difficult for the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) arm to work with the State Department and Department of Defense to determine a trainee’s status and take additional actions. In a letter sent today to ICE, McCaskill requested answers about what has been done to improve coordination across different agencies to lessen the risk of trainees going AWOL and locate them if they do.
McCaskill has served on the Homeland Security Committee since joining the Senate, becoming the top-ranking Democrat last year, where she has prioritized protecting Missourians and all Americans from national security threats. McCaskill along with Republican Committee Chairman Ron Johnson are demanding answers over the State Department’s approval of a visa application by a Saudi Arabian national who was indicted for lying on his visa application about his connection to terrorism—he had allegedly attended an al Qaeda training camp in or around September 2000. McCaskill’s bill to reauthorize the Department of Homeland Security’s program that targets transnational criminal organizations on the border and at U.S. ports in order to combat drug and weapons trafficking and other crimes was approved by the Committee last year. The Committee also approved McCaskill’s bipartisan bill to help determine weaknesses in security following a terrorist attack. McCaskill has continued to fight for counterterrorism funding during Committee hearings with top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.
Read the Defense Department’s response to McCaskill HERE and read McCaskill’s letter to Immigration and Customs Enforcement HERE.