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Monday, October 24, 2016

The idea that a true soldier never leaves a comrade behind is chiseled into U.S. military creed.

This heroic duty has been celebrated in story and film, and recorded in numerous battlefield citations. But does it extend to foreign allies who, though not exactly fellow soldiers, are crucial collaborators in our military missions? Specifically, what loyalty do we owe to interpreters, the people who have kept our troops safe with their language skills, their deft understanding of culture, and often with their bravery as they walked side by side with American soldiers?

Apparently, their safety and well-being are not so highly valued.

Visas for Afghan interpreters are being denied at a rate that is alarming many in the military. It ought to anger the American people, too. Public outcry might be necessary to right this wrong.

The visas in question are part of the business of wrapping up the war in Afghanistan. We’re leaving, pulling our troops out. And we’re forcing some of Afghans who worked for our forces to stay at great peril.

Afghan interpreters have been body armor for our troops. They have been invaluable. But in choosing to work closely with our military, they made themselves an enemy of the Taliban. Some reportedly have been placed on insurgents’ hit lists. Others have received death threats. Some have already been killed.

An Afghan friend, a man who helped train our military in the Afghan language and culture at the Army’s Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, told me the interpreters are “marked.”

“They will always be known as American ‘servants’ and will be killed by the Taliban,” said Faieq Zarif, now an adjunct professor of philosophy at San Diego City College.

Complicating the interpreters’ situation, Zarif added, is the fact that the U.S. military paid them a better wage for their services than the average Afghan could earn. So there is little to no sympathy for their plight among ordinary Afghans, or from the government there.

Recognizing the dangerous but vital role interpreters played, Congress several years ago authorized special visas for which such interpreters could apply. A total of 8,750 were made available for Afghans who had worked for the U.S. government, of which about 1,600 have been granted.

The catch is that they must prove that they face “an ongoing serious threat.” And they must convince State Department officials, first through applications at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

In some of these cases, the officials pleading for diplomatic mercy for the interpreters are the members of the U.S. military whom they aided during fighting.

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Copyright 2013 The National Memo
  • sigrid28

    Not awarding these heroic interpreters visas is an outrage. Who can count on the “new” Afghanistan to make good use of these experts? I’m not sure they would have better opportunity in the U.S. Unfortunately, linguistic expertise at the level of these interpreters would not be appreciated in the U.S. in the current climate of anti-intellectual bias in most hiring, which follows the corporate model–even within colleges and universities, where 60% of teaching is done by adjuncts paid less than minimum wage with no benefits. How could they come here and live on that? Some might say living on a minimum wage here is better than there. At this point, I might wish them a better landing in a European country where a socialist model–like that so often decried by our fat Republican lawmakers–might offer them and their families a better chance. Why should they go from one failed state to another on its way down?

  • tdm3624

    Let them come to the U.S. and work for the intelligence services.

    • mandinka

      That’s the issue they are employable Barak only wants illegals who will use US taxpayers free aid programs to beef up the 47% who don’t pay taxes

    • mandinka

      That’s the issue they are employable Barak only wants illegals who will
      use US taxpayers free aid programs to beef up the 47% who don’t pay

  • deewhy1939

    These men and their families deserve the visas to come to this country. They put their lives on the line in service to the US. In a clan culture this can easily be a death sentence as they are looked upon as having betrayed the clan. These men most likely have other skills beside speaking English and we owe them a chance at freedom. I sponsored a family from Vietnam and it was one of the best moves I made at the time. The father trained here in the US as an Engineer and when he went home he worked with our forces in his country. When Saigon fell his family was threatened because of his service to us. He had a job working on a factory line, two weeks after they came to live with me. As soon as they had saved enough money they rented their own place. They have made a very successful life for themselves and their family since they arrived here. I know that the Afghans can do the same thing if given a chance. Those that put their lives on the line for our fight deserve our help to continue to live.

    • mandinka

      They deserve 0

    • sigrid28

      It is true that there are Afghan enclaves within the U.S., where these families might touch down and assimilate. I applaud what you did for a family from Vietnam, and I would applaud members of the armed forces who have worked with these heroic interpreters, who might themselves take on the rewarding duty of friendship sponsoring an immigrant family entails. I would also expect the U.S. to look toward contractors that have made fortunes in Afghanistan to give these individuals a hiring advantage. It is the least these companies can do. What is certain, is that these interpreters cannot remain in Afghanistan after the U.S. departs.

      • deewhy1939

        Thank you! I couldn’t have done differently. I had the room and a steady job teaching I felt it was the thing to do. They left family behind but they gained family once in the US. My parents added them to our family as they later added my daughter to their family.

  • mandinka

    The interpreters from Afghanistan are Sunni Moooslims and a different sect than Obama’s Shiite sect. That’s why he is insuring they are left behind

  • mandinka

    Todays military boys are bunch of cowards for leaving one behind. Back in my days, we were all heros, no gays or women