Texas Lawmakers Outraged That Afghans Went AWOL From Air Force Base

Texas Lawmakers Outraged That Afghans Went AWOL From Air Force Base

By Jana Winter

Published June 21, 2010

| FOXNews.com

Texas lawmakers say they are deeply concerned that the federal government lost track of 17 Afghan military personnel who went AWOL from Lackland Air Force Base, where they were studying English.

U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison, and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Lamar Smith, all Republicans, are demanding answers from the U.S. Air Force and the Department of Homeland Security on what Cornyn described as a “breach of national security.” And the lawmakers are asking why the alert was issued only last week when the men started disappearing 18 months ago.

Smith, who serves on the House Homeland Security Committee, is demanding that Air Force and Homeland Security officials brief Congress on the Afghans’ disappearance.

“It is extremely troubling that these Afghan military members with special access to U.S. military facilities were allowed to disappear,” he told FoxNews.com in a statement Monday. “This is an unacceptable threat to American communities and members of the military, who live and work on the base, that these AWOL military members can still attempt to access.

“We need to ensure there is a system in place so foreign military officers training in the U.S. can’t go AWOL. We must protect the safety of our citizens, and the members of the U.S. military who defend us every day.”

Hutchison said she, too, was troubled that the Afghans had walked off the base and disappeared.

“I’m deeply concerned about the national security implications of these missing international military trainees and what is being done to find them,” she said in an e-mail statement to FoxNews.com.

“It is disturbing the Air Force has not made greater efforts to bring this matter to light. It is important for the Defense Department to work with other law enforcement agencies to find these individuals and to prevent this from happening again.”

On Friday, Cornyn demanded answers in a letter to Air Force Secretary Michael B. Donley, calling the defection of 17 Afghan military members over the course of 18 months a breach of national security.

“My office has never received official notification from the Department of the Air Force regarding this potential national security threat, which could pose a danger to citizens in Texas and elsewhere in the country,” Cornyn wrote.

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