Search underway for missing Afghan trainees

Posted at 9:34 AM, Dec 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-09 12:34:02-05

Two Afghan men who were training with the U.S. military are missing from a base in south Georgia, but officials say that they were screened before entering the country and that there's no indication they pose a threat.

"There's zero evidence that these guys are terrorists," said Brian Childress, police chief in Valdosta, which is near Moody Air Force Base.

The men didn't report Monday to maintenance training with the 81st Fighter Squadron, base officials said in a statement Tuesday night.

Federal, local and state agencies are working with the military to find the men, Childress said Wednesday. Moody officials informed him Tuesday morning the men were missing, he said. The men's names and other details about them have not been released.

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 men were screened before arriving in the U.S. more than a year ago, according to the 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."