US.-based Afghan pilot training program ends after nearly half of pilots go AWOL

A U.S.-based program to train Afghan attack pilots has shuttered after nearly half of trainees went absent without leave, or AWOL, resulting in only one graduating class, according to a government report released this week.

The program taught Afghan Air Force pilots to fly the AC-208 light attack combat aircraft. It was disbanded after more than 40 percent of those enrolled left in the middle of training, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in its quarterly report.

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“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 U.S.-based program,” the report stated. The remaining classes will finish their training in Afghanistan.

The pilots were trained at Meacham Airport in Fort Worth, Texas by advisers called the Train Advise Assist Command-Air. The instructors are part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

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SIGAR did not indicate whether the AWOL pilots were found. Foreign trainees going AWOL is not uncommon. Nearly half of all foreign military trainees -- 152 out of 320 -- gone AWOL since 2005 were from Afghanistan, SIGAR reported in 2017. Some claim asylum after being apprehended, according to the Times.