The New Afghanistan Air Force

How the U.S. military is training Afghans to fly.

At Kandahar airfield, Afghans and Western coalition members celebrate the activation of the Afghan air force’s second wing. (USAF/SSGT Angelita Lawrence)
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LAST JUNE, the United States’ efforts to help build Afghanistan’s military got some bad publicity: reported that a total of 46 Afghans who had come to the United States since 2002 for training in a variety of military skills had gone missing from Lackland over the years. David Smith, Lackland’s chief of public affairs operations, says that all Afghan students who had left the base without authorization had been reported to the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. According to the Toronto newspaper the National Post, 22 of the 46 were later found to be in Canada (some were found on Facebook). Others were found in the United States and either deported or given conditional U.S. residence status. An undetermined number have still not been found. Smith says that Lackland is still training Afghan military personnel. Since the AWOL alert was issued, he adds, “the Afghans have added a resident liaison officer to help students work though their issues.”

As of October 2010, a total of 109 Afghan students have come to the United States for English instruction and training in flying. Of them:

  • 17 completed instrument flight school,
  • 2 completed helicopter training,
  • 1 completed fixed-wing training, and
  • 3 have competed all of their U.S. training and are back in Afghanistan.

Stewart Nusbaumer has reported on more than a dozen wars over three decades and has spent nearly a year in Afghanistan covering the war as a freelance writer.

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