WASHINGTON – Several Iraqi military and law enforcement officials who had been in the United States for intelligence and training courses are on the lam after bolting from their classes.
The Army has acknowledged that five officers disappeared between 2005 and 2007, but intelligence officials told The Washington Times that the number of missing Iraqis is closer to a dozen, including one brigadier general who fled to Canada earlier this year.
Some are seeking asylum and some have just vanished, The Times says.
"Nothing that this command is aware of would suggest that any of those students who departed from their training or returned back to Iraq pose any threat to the United States," Harvey Perritt, civilian spokesman for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), which oversees all the schools the Army has in the continental U.S., told the newspaper
"We don't know the reasons why they elected not to return to Iraq," he said.
The number of incidents has spurred Texas Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, to seek answers from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.
"The trainees are given access to highly sensitive information intended to help in the stabilization of Iraq. Proper screening for entry into the program and strict controls during the training are necessary to protect both our national security and our soldiers overseas," Smith, who first inquired about missing trainees last year, told the newspaper.
Smith said he was informed that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has received several requests for asylum from Iraqis who fear being targeted by insurgents if they return to Iraq.