Where are all the AWOL Muslim military trainees?
by Michelle Malkin
American military bases are reportedly on high alert for “missing Saudi servicemen” in the wake of the deadly shooting at Pensacola’s Naval Air Station on Friday.
The feds have repeatedly emphasized that “Saudi Air Force officers selected for military training in the United States are intensely vetted by both countries.” But the government’s own data on military deserters from the Muslim world and elsewhere are not so reassuring.
Take a look at this pie chart from an October 2017 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR):
Disappearing Afghan pilots in the U.S. have been a national security concern for more than a dozen years.
I reported on the alarming phenomenon of Muslim deserters in 2014:
So the five Afghan soldiers who went missing from two separate U.S. military bases are now all accounted for and apparently headed back to their home country. Feel safer now? Don’t. The Pentagon, State Department and Department of Homeland Security would like this story to be over and done. (Just like they wanted the White House “fence-jumper” story to be buried. But then we found out he didn’t just jump the fence; he also overpowered a Secret Service agent, burst through the halls and invaded the East Room wielding a knife.)
Here are my nagging questions about another hushed-up national security incident the White House would prefer to whitewash:
–Why were officials so quick to tell the public that these men were not a threat to the public?
The two Afghan men who disappeared on Sept. 13 from a training program with the Drug Enforcement Administration in Quantico, Va., were Mohd Naweed Samimi, 24, and Mohammad Yasin Ataye, 22. The three men who ditched Cape Cod’s Camp Edwards on Sept. 22 were Major Jan Mohammad Arash, Captain Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Captain Noorullah Aminyar. (Update: Here are there asylum stories. And here are reminders of how easily our asylum system is gamed.)
Both Afghan and U.S. officials rushed to assure the public that none of these men posed a security threat. The Pentagon said “they were vetted” by the State Department through its so-called “Leahy vetting process.” Big deal. This so-called process has been under fire for years because of shoddy or unavailable records, as well as inconsistency across programs and agencies.
“We generally don’t know who we are training. We have little reliable information,” one U.S. official told RAND Corp. researchers. Their study “found significant problems with current U.S. vetting practices in relation to security assistance.”
That RAND warning about vetting problems was issued in 2006.
More from my 2014 post:
In 2008, similar problems were exposed by the State Department inspector general in visa programs for thousands of Afghan and Iraqi translators and interpreters who worked for U.S. government agencies. The programs were deemed at “high risk for fraud and abuse,” with almost 25 percent of those approved failing to meet the eligibility criteria.
In 2012, after Afghan trainees murdered 45 NATO troops, U.S. Special Operations forces suspended Afghan police and special forces training. Lax screening and security measures led to widespread abuse and corruption within Afghan law enforcement units, not to mention endangerment of our troops. In addition to a massive rescreening effort of 350,000 Afghan security forces, U.S. military leaders directed coalition force units to “create safe zones inside (Afghan National Security Forces) compounds where they can defend themselves if necessary.”
Unfortunately, the “safe zone” initiative didn’t work at Camp Bastion in September 2012, when an unprecedented attack by Taliban infiltrators left two Marines dead, 17 troops wounded and eight Harrier jets destroyed or damaged. Neither did “safe zones” stop the August 2014 slaying of U.S. Maj. Gen. Harold Greene at the hands of a Taliban infiltrator wearing an Afghan army uniform.
And no such “safe zones” have been created here at home for when Afghan trainees come to our shores and suddenly wander off.
Finally, after 152 Afghan trainees vanished between 2005-2017, our military ended its joint training program in May 2019. Where did they all go? Who knows?
“Of the 152 AWOL Afghan trainees, 83 either fled the United States after going AWOL or remain unaccounted for,” SIGAR reported.
That’s just the Afghan fugitives. Of the 320 total foreign trainees who abandoned their U.S. posts, 27 were from Yemen; 16 came from Turkey; 9 from Saudi Arabia; and 22 were from Iraq. Another 94 came from other countries, including Burundi, Ethiopia, and Tunisia.
These foreign military soldiers, pilots, and other personnel are granted special A-2 visas to receive training on American soil.
There are currently more than 5,100 foreign military personnel here on Pentagon-sponsored security cooperation training programs, including 852 from Saudi Arabia.
More info from Stars and Stripes:
Friday’s assailant, Ahmed Mohammed al-Shamrani, was at Naval Air Station Pensacola on one of more than 5,500 temporary visas issued to Saudi military personnel by the State Department in 2019, according to department data. As of Friday, there were 852 Saudis in the United States for Pentagon-sponsored training related to security cooperation. That represents 16% of the 5,181 students from 153 countries in these programs, according to Defense Department spokesperson Chris Garver. Pensacola is just one of more than 150 military schools and installations where these students study annually.
Overall, there were 5,181 foreign students from 153 countries in the United States today for “security cooperation” training, Garver adds. There are several levels of vetting involved before they are allowed to arrive.
— Dan Lamothe (@DanLamothe) December 6, 2019
“Several levels of vetting?”
Don’t believe the hype. As the October 2017 SIGAR report also noted:
Afghan trainees travel to the United States on A-2 visas. As noted above, A-2 visas are issued to diplomats and other foreign government officials traveling to the United States to engage solely in official duties or activities on behalf of their national governments.34 A-2 visa applicants may have their personal appearance (i.e., interview) waived by State Department consular officials.35 Moreover, even if consular officials require prospective Afghan trainees to appear in person, they are not allowed to require that the candidate
demonstrate an intent to return to Afghanistan following the completion of training as is the case for B1/B2 type visa applicants. According to ICE’s Counterterrorism and Criminal Exploitation Unit (CTCEU),36 the limited vetting of the A-2 applicants creates potential national security vulnerabilities for the United States. According to ICE, the CTCEU has no visibility on IMS’s [International Military Student] military records. This can pose a potential heightened risk to national security and public safety because it limits the information available to investigating agents searching for AWOL Afghan trainees. Additionally, all international military students in the United States on valid international training orders, including all Afghan trainees (who are far more likely than trainees from other countries to go AWOL) may be exempt from the provisions pertaining to registration and reporting of address as outlined in 8 U.S.C. § 1201. According to ICE, limited biographical and background information can make it difficult to locate the Afghan trainees once they have gone AWOL.
Let me make this clear: It is standard procedure to allow these foreign military trainees to skip the standard in person interview at a consular office.
(Side note: If the waiver of personal appearances by State Department consular officials sounds familiar, then you remember that such waivers through the Visa Express program were exactly how the vast majority of Saudi 9/11 hijackers waltzed through our front door.)
As I reported Friday after the shooting, our US military has been training Saudi airmen since 2012 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas; Eglin AFB, Fla., Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. & Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla.
Your Friday national insecurity fact of the day: Our US military has been training Saudi airmen since 2012 at Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas; Eglin AFB, Fla., Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C. & Pensacola Naval Air Station, Fla. Overdue for #extremevetting ==>https://t.co/xrTI9uXggd
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) December 6, 2019
A former Randolph AFB airman reported that foreign deserters were commonplace on his base:
I was stationed at Randolph AFB, TX from 2006-2009. On average, 2-4 international students (all from Saudi) would go missing/disappear every month. They always caught them at the Canadian border 1-2 weeks later. Cc: @michellemalkin
— 🇺🇸Retired CMSgt🇺🇸 (@SpongeWorthy941) December 6, 2019
The training program with Saudi Arabia at Pensacola and other military bases was part of the $30 billion sale of F-15s to the Saudis – engineered by Hillary Clinton and the Deep State.
NEW THREAD – SAVE & SHARE: The US/Saudi aviation training partnership at Pensacola & other military bases was part of the $30 billion sale of F-15s to the Saudis – engineered by Hillary Clinton & State Dept. /1https://t.co/YJ9prAg9dj
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) December 7, 2019
Pay for play:
2/ Declassified State Dept emails from top Hillary staffers gloated about the w/Saudi government in December 2011. Saudis had contributed $10 million to Clinton Foundation. F-15 manufacturer Boeing had contributed $900,000 to Clinton Foundation.https://t.co/ddHUwmHHn2 pic.twitter.com/vC1K3XBPhT
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) December 7, 2019
The F-15 deal was one of 42 arms/ammo/training deals that the Obama White House/Clinton State Dept forged with Saudi Arabia to the tune of $115 billion in arms sales.
3/ The F-15 deal was one of 42 arms/ammo/training deals that the Obama White House/Clinton State Dept forged with Saudi Arabia to the tune of $115 billion in arms sales.https://t.co/ojLDS5zcWM
— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) December 7, 2019
If we believe in America First, we should put our men and women in uniform first, not the rest of the world’s aspiring jihad pilots and personnel exploiting our generosity to wage war from inside our own military bases on American soil.
This is murderous madness.
Have we learned NOTHING?!
Background on the three heroes who needlessly sacrificed their lives for our America Last, Train the Rest of the World’s Militaries First suicide missions:
These are the names of the three victims killed:
Airman Mohammed Sameh Hathaim, 19, from St. Petersburg, Florida. He enlisted July 18 and reported to the Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes, Illinois. He reported to Pensacola on Sept. 21 and had earned the Navy Basic Military Training Honor Graduate Ribbon.
Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, 23, from Coffee, Alabama. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis who was commissioned May 24 and reported for duty in Pensacola on Nov. 15.
Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters, 21, from Richmond Hill, Georgia. He enlisted Sept. 16 and also reported to the Recruit Training Command at Great Lakes before he reported to Pensacola on Nov. 24.
All three were students at Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola.
The Naval Academy family is devastated to learn one of the three victims in the Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting was one of our own, Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Class of 2019. https://t.co/R2Nm6jm2JE pic.twitter.com/yufNgD0r59
— U.S. Naval Academy (@NavalAcademy) December 8, 2019
‘I knew my baby was gone’ 💔
Evelyn Brady welcomed me into her home & we spoke about her son. Mohammed “Mo” Haitham was 1 of 3 killed at the Naval Air Station #Pensacola on Friday. Brady tells me he tried to stop the shooter & died a hero. Their story tonight on @10NewsWTSP at 11 pic.twitter.com/JAraGfFcZ2
— Angelina Salcedo (@AngelinaWTSP) December 8, 2019
Fair winds and following seas, Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson, Airman Mohammed Sameh Haitham and Airman Apprentice Cameron Scott Walters. FBI seeks tips about the man who killed them.https://t.co/fARHrAmcZY pic.twitter.com/9e4mUgAYry
— Air Force Times (@AirForceTimes) December 8, 2019
Hmmm….15 Saudis attack us on 9/11. The Saudi government kills a US journalist. A Saudi pilot in training kills 3 of our soldiers. Can anyone spot the common thread? My take: It’s way past time to quit arming and training the Saudis!https://t.co/TqUSxDRTuT
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) December 8, 2019
Previous related posts:
The Saudi 9/11 Scholarship Program
The massacre at Fort Hood and Muslim soldiers with attitude
Not all U.S. Muslim soldiers are equal
How many more Nidal Hasans in our ranks?
Report: Another jihadist plot against American soldiers on American soil; Alert gun dealer, local police blew the whistle
Muslim soldier Nidal Hasan to fellow military doctors: “We love death more then (sic) you love life!” Updated