CAMP EDWARDS, Mass. – As police and U. S. military officials searched for three Afghanistan National Army officers who went missing during a training exercise at a military base in Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick said one of the possibilities being investigated is that they may be trying to find a way to stay in the United States.
Patrick said Monday that the military does not believe that the three soldiers pose a danger to the public.
“I don’t have a reason to believe that they pose a threat. They were vetted by the military, they were cleared by the military,” Patrick told reporters while he visited a preschool program in Quincy.
“There is a lot of speculation within the military that they may be trying to defect,” he said.
Lt. Col. James Sahady of the Massachusetts National Guard said there were no details to report on the search Monday.
Military officials said the Afghan soldiers had been participating in a U.S. Central Command Regional Cooperation training exercise at Joint Base Cape Cod. They arrived at Camp Edwards on Sept. 11, 2001, and were last seen Saturday at the Cape Cod Mall in Hyannis during an off day for the program.
The soldiers were reported missing by base security personnel Saturday night. They were identified as Maj. Jan Mohammad Arash, Capt. Mohammad Nasir Askarzada and Capt. Noorullah Aminyar.
The Regional Cooperation training exercises have been held annually since 2004 to promote co-operation and interoperability among forces, build functional capacity, practice peacekeeping operations and enhance readiness.
The year’s exercise, which involves more than 200 participants from six nations including the U.S., is scheduled to wrap up Wednesday. There are about a dozen more Afghan soldiers still participating in the exercise.
Military officials from Tajikistan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan and Mongolia are also participants.