The two Afghan nationals who were training at a Georgia Air Force and were reported missing earlier this week have reportedly been identified Thursday.
Several federal law enforcement agencies are searching for Mirwais Kohistani and Shirzad Rohullah, unnamed Air Force officials told Channel 2 Action News. The officials said the two men were a part of a 23-man group learning to fly and maintain an A-29 fighter plane at Moody Air Force Base outside Valdosta.
The Homeland Security and State Department have taken the lead, the Moody Air Force officials said in a statement Thursday and reiterated that they didn’t believe the men posed a threat.
The Air Force said in a statement Tuesday Kohistani and Rohullah didn’t report Monday to “their regular maintenance training” with the 81st Fight Squadron.
The two men have been training at the base since February and “were screened prior to their arrival in the United States more than a year ago,” according to the statement. "There's zero evidence that these guys are terrorists," Brian Childress, police chief in Valdosta, which is near Moody Air Force Base, said on Tuesday.
“I would just caution that that assessment is as good as what we know,” Georgia State University professor Robert Friedmann told Channel 2 Action News.
Friedmann said he believes Kohistani and Rohullah walked away because they didn’t want to return to Afghanistan.
The two had been at Moody since February 2015 as part of a training program aimed at improving the Afghanistan air force, according to the base's statement.
The program aims to train a total of 30 Afghan pilots and 90 Afghan maintenance personnel during a four-year period, Moody Air Force Base said in an August 2014 release when the program was announced. It was not clear how many trainees from Afghanistan are currently at the base.
Childress said base officials met with local law enforcement several months ago to plan for the possibility that some of the Afghanistan trainees could go absent without leave.
"Anytime you bring in foreign military to our country, you have to prepare for that kind of thing," Childress said.
He said that on Tuesday, he began hearing from Valdosta residents concerned about the missing men "in light of what's happened out in San Bernardino," but he called this "a totally difference circumstance."
"You've got to remember these folks were cleared by the U.S. military and by the Department of Defense to come in and train," Childress said. "These guys have been here since February of 2015, and they have not caused a problem at all."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.