Two Afghan intelligence officials missing in the U.S.

John Miller, CBS, November 2, 2012 10:00 AM

The FBI is looking for two senior Afghan intelligence officials who have disappeared from Washington, D.C.

Major Mohd Farooq Ghanizada is the chief of the Counterterrorism and Organized Crime Section. Captain Alibaba Ghashee is the deputy chief of the American and European Department. Both officers work for the National Security Directorate (NDS), which is Afghanistan’s intelligence agency. Both were supposed to meet their U.S. government hosts in front of a Washington hotel for a return flight to Afghanistan last Friday, but neither showed for the ride to Dulles Airport.

Ghanizada and Khashee were here as part of an elite executive training program called the George C. Marshall Center Advanced Security Studies program. The Marshal Center brings in top officials from military and security agencies form NATO members and other allied countries for the rigorous 10-week course. It is a joint program run by the U.S. and German governments and is headquartered in the Alps in Garmisch, Germany. Part of the course involves a trip to Washington DC where students are given briefings by Pentagon officials, FBI executives and tour the Supreme Court. The course is meant to highlight how security functions in a democracy.

Relations between the U.S. military and Afghan partners have been strained after a series of “green on blue” attacks where Afghan police or military members have opened fire on their U.S. trainers. Having two highly trained Afghan intelligence officials possibly hiding on U.S. soil sounds like plot twist from an episode of “Homeland” and gives US officials concern.

The reason behind the disappearance may be much more mundane. A law enforcement official said investigators believe it is more likely that the two ranking Afghan intelligence officers may just want to stay in the U.S. a little longer, or could be heading to Canada where asylum rules are fairly liberal.

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Two Afghan officials missing in U.S.

After being nominated by the Afghan National Security Directorate to attend the George C. Marshall Center for Security Studies, both Afghanis were put through a background investigation before being accepted. A U.S. official, speaking on background told CBS News that during the course, there was no sign of anything unusual with the two.

“Major Ghanizada was active during the FST(field study trip)and asked coherent and well thought out questions. Captain Khashee was more subdued but was present and participated in all venues,” the official said.

An alert has been sent to FBI offices, Homeland Security and police agencies across the country as well as airports and border crossings.

John Miller is a senior correspondent for CBS News, with extensive experience in intelligence, law enforcement and journalism, including stints in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the FBI.