17 Afghan Soldiers Went AWOL from U.S. Military Base

Afghan soldiers go AWOL at Texas Air Force Base

American authorities are on the lookout for at least nine Afghan soldiers who remain at large in the United States since deserting a U.S. Air Force base in Texas, where they were stationed to study English.

The soldiers have "all access" credentials for U.S. military facilities, officials told ABC News, but the men are not considered a national security threat.

While there is no evidence of anything nefarious, authorities still want to locate the men to find out precisely what they are doing.

A total of 17 Afghans have gone AWOL from Lackland Air Force Base in recent years, and authorities suspect the men used their assignment in the U.S. as a ruse to immigrate illegally and seek a better life.

"A routine bulletin was created to inform the U.S. law enforcement community [of] about 17 Afghan soldiers who have deserted in recent years while attending language training at the Defense Language Institute facility in Texas," said Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Brian Hale in a prepared statement.

There is no evidence, military and law enforcement authorities said, of a terrorist plot involving the men.

"There is no information that any of these individuals pose a national security threat," Hale said. "Previous indications are that such foreign military deserters typically do so solely for prospects of a better life. This type of bulletin serves to identify foreign military deserters, request investigative leads and enable ICE to take appropriate enforcement action."

Officials said the recently released "Be on the Lookout," or BOLO bulletin, was issued by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the North Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force in an effort to ascertain where the men are currently.

Each of the soldiers, Afghan officers and enlisted men, has been given an "all access" badge, and could "attempt to enter Department of Defense installations," according to the bulletin.

"There is no evidence that these deserters from the Afghan military pose any danger to either civilians or U.S. military personnel," said Naval Criminal Investigative Service spokesman Ed Buice. "When the information came in to the Fort Worth Joint Terrorism Task Force, NCIS, as the only DOD member of that JTTF, shared this information throughout DOD with force protection authorities as a precaution--not because of any known threat."

Some of the deserters named in the bulletin, who range in age from 23 to 43 years old, disappeared in the 1990s. More recent deserters abandoned their post in the last two years. At least one of the men went absent in the past year, officials said.

Of the 17 named in the bulletin, nine are still believed to be at large in the United States and one is believed to be living in Canada.

According to the bulletin, "The visas issued to these personnel have been revoked, or are in the process of being revoked."

Four of the men already are undergoing deportation proceedings, according to one Department of Homeland Security official.

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