US ends training course for Afghan pilots due to high desertions
Iran Press TV
Sun May 5, 2019 03:22AM
The US military has terminated a training program for Afghan pilots and maintainers in the United States due to high desertion rates among the trainees, the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says.
Desertions among members of the Afghan military training in the US, who often complain that they or their family members have been threatened by Afghanistan's Taliban insurgency, have been a persistent problem for the American military and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US-based Military.com news outlet reported Friday.
"The AC-208 pilot training classes that were underway in the United States were disbanded due to the number of trainees who were going absent without leave (AWOL)," SIGAR said in its latest quarterly report to Congress, released on Tuesday.
"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 US-based program," the report further noted.
The news outlet also cited SIGAR's quarterly report in October 2017 as saying: "Given the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the fact that Afghan trainees who violate the terms of their visas suffer virtually no consequences for going AWOL (deserting except for the possible return to Afghanistan), the AWOL rate is likely to either remain steady or increase."
According to the report, just in 2017 ICE stated that 152 Afghan trainees had deserted since 2005, and 83 of them either fled the country successfully -- often traveling to Canada to seek political asylum, or were still missing.
It added that SIGAR officials were initially unclear about the details of where the pilot training was taking place and the number of Afghan pilots enrolled, but said that the program to train the pilots on the AC-208 aircraft -- a military version of the single-prop Cessna 208 Caravan -- had been moved back to Afghanistan to an airfield near Kandahar.
SIGAR did not say how many pilots and maintainers were in the first AC-208 class but noted that 40 percent of them had deserted.
When asked by Military.com where the AC-208 training had been taking place, SIGAR spokesmen initially said Moody Air Force Base in Georgia, but spokesmen there and at Columbus Air Force Base said the only training for Afghan pilots in the state was on the A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft.
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