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Originally published Friday, June 18, 2010 at 6:59 PM

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17 Afghan soldiers in U.S. for training go AWOL in Texas

U. S. military investigators are asking law enforcement nationwide to be on the lookout for Afghan military members who went AWOL while training in Texas, though none is believed to be a national security threat, officials said Friday.

The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO — U.S. military investigators are asking law enforcement nationwide to be on the lookout for Afghan military personnel who went AWOL while training in Texas, though none is believed to be a national-security threat, officials said Friday.

Air Force spokesman Gary Emery said 17 Afghans disappeared from Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio one by one during the past 18 months, but a federal law-enforcement official said seven of those absent without leave have been accounted for. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The men were vetted by the military and aren't believed to be connected to one another or to any terrorist group, Emery said. All had been studying English as a precursor to training sponsored by the U.S. and Afghan militaries.

"I don't think that anybody's really concerned that this is any sort of a plot or that they're looking to do anybody any harm," he said.

Emery said the disappearances were reported to immigration and federal law enforcement when they occurred, but an alert notifying law enforcement nationwide was issued Wednesday. Emery did not know what prompted the alert by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS), and messages to an NCIS spokesman were not returned Friday.

The FBI referred all calls to NCIS.

The last of the men went missing in January. Their visas, driver's licenses and other travel documents were immediately revoked, but the men were issued base-access cards that could allow them to drive on military bases, Emery said.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, sent a letter Friday to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley calling the reports of the AWOL Afghans "alarming."

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