Published June 18, 2010
As crazy as it sounds, and it sounds plenty crazy, some Afghan soldiers sent to the U.S. for various training programs decided they'd rather stay in America than return to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. I know, their decision makes no sense.
Mind you, military and government students from a variety of nations over the years have likewise chosen not to return home, slipping instead in to the fabric of American society. So the recent news that at least 17 Afghan pilot candidates sent to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to learn English have disappeared shouldn't surprise anyone but their families back home. The good news is that apparently the English lessons worked well enough for the students to learn how to say "...excuse me, which way please for to leave this base?”
The Afghans, all selected as top performers and thus given the opportunity to come to the U.S., were issued special Department of Defense Common Access Cards (DoDCACs in military parlance) along with secret decoder rings (SDRs) and just enough cash to evade authorities.
Reportedly, using nothing but their newly developed English skills and a growing awareness that Afghanistan ain't the paradise they were led to believe it was, the students disguised themselves in Hello Kitty Y-shirts, khakis and ball caps purchased at the Post Exchange store and slipped out the back, Jack.
Now, authorities tell us that some of these fellas have already been picked up while others are still on the lamb. I may have the spelling wrong there. Regardless, the general tone of the communication going out to various authorities is "If you see an Afghan wearing a Hello Kitty shirt and sporting a decoder ring from the military, please detain the individual and contact Tony Hayward at BP...they are responsible for everything from now on." Or I think that's the gist of it. I didn't actually read the memo.
Should we be worried? Over the past two years the Air Force has misplaced 17 Afghan military trainees (7 have now been accounted for). I'm constantly losing sunglasses and umbrellas...and I've lost two phones in the past couple years alone. But an Afghan soldier? That's a bit harder to figure.
Is it a security threat? Not likely, but you can't dismiss it outright. Maybe they all simply want something more than Afghanistan currently has to offer, which admittedly sounds silly. Maybe some of them found love at the Suds n' More located just off the base and couldn't take the thought of leaving their gals behind. But what if one or two or more of them have other motivations? I don't think that's the case here, but who wants to be wrong on that assessment?
So keep your eyes peeled fellow citizens. I know it's only 10 or so walkabouts we’re talking about here. But this is exactly how an illegal immigration problem could start. And who needs that?
If you spot one of the missing trainees please remind them that they're due back at the base before supper time. It may help to let them know tonight's feature is chipped beef on toast. And don't touch the decoder ring. Good luck.
Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector and has recently returned to Diligence LLC, a company he cofounded in 2000, as President. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on counterterrorism, intelligence and homeland security. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant, writer and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks," as well as major motion pictures.
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