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Posts Tagged ‘interpreter’

Photo: U.S. Army.
An Afghan interpreter assists U.S. military personnel trying to locate Taliban weapons.

On Memorial Day, as we honor the men and women of our military, I am thinking in particular of those whose lives have been lost fighting in Afghanistan. Today, many who are leaving that troubled country have a justifiable concern about what will happen to their interpreters and friends when the Taliban reassert control.

I am not one to say we should stay there, but I have learned from Shagufa just how bad things are likely to get, and I wanted to know what our soldiers thought.

Ken Olson writes at Legion.org, “Gerald Keen’s Afghan interpreter is running out of time. One relative was assassinated by the Taliban a month ago. Another was killed by an IED last Sunday. Both also worked as translators for U.S and coalition forces in Afghanistan.

“ ‘It’s like he has a bounty on his head,’ Keen says of the Afghan national he worked closely with during his 2016 deployment. ‘The Taliban has no remorse.’ …

“There are more than 17,000 interpreters and their families mired in the same bureaucratic quagmire of the U.S. Special Immigration Visa application process. Their peril is exponentially greater now that the United States has announced it will withdraw all of its troops from Afghanistan. …  

“It’s a haunting reminder of the situation faced by the Montagnards who risked their lives and their families’ lives to support U.S. operations in the Vietnam War. The American Legion has asked the president and Congress through a 2018 National Security Commission resolution to recognize the crucial contribution Afghan and Iraqi interpreters have made and ensure they are able to come to the United States. ‘Our wartime allies saved countless American lives and directly contributed to every level of tactical, operational and strategic success during the mission is Iraq and Afghanistan,’ according to Resolution No. 16, passed by Legion’s National Executive Committee in October 2018.

“The International Refugee Assistance Project also called for the mass evacuation of Afghans at risk to Guam or another location while they slog through the lengthy visa process, much like what was done for Iraqi Kurds as part of Operation Pacific Haven in 1996. …

“The Special Immigrant Visa program most Afghan nationals are using was established in 2009 when Congress created the Afghan Allies Protection Act, says Julie Kornfeld, an attorney with the International Refugee Assistance Project who represents several Afghan interpreters. The statute calls for visa applications to be processed in nine months. The reality is far worse. Kornfeld has clients who have been waiting as long as 10 years.

“ ‘The U.S. mission in Afghanistan recruited Afghan nationals with a promise of safety, but we’ve made it bureaucratically impossible for them to access safety,’ she says. ‘It sends a message to them that we aren’t fulfilling our promise to protect them.’ …

“ ‘It’s very frustrating,’ Keen adds. ‘We couldn’t have made it through this without these interpreters.’ ”   

So today, as we honor military personnel who have died serving in wars at the behest of a series of presidents, let’s spare a thought for those who are in danger because they helped us, and let’s support any elected representatives who may be trying to rescue those people.

More here.

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