The World Today for July 02, 2021

NEED TO KNOW

AFGHANISTAN

Leave No Man Behind

Interpreters were crucial in the US-led effort to root out Islamic fundamentalists in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. Now they feel betrayed.

As the US and other countries plan to pull out their soldiers in the coming weeks from the war-torn Central Asian country, interpreters and their advocates are calling on Western leaders to help these brave Afghans escape their country before the murderous Taliban take over and seek revenge.

“Thousands of Afghans served shoulder to shoulder with the United States and other NATO forces as interpreters, and in other essential functions,” wrote the Washington Post editorial board. “The United States must prepare an orderly exit for them and avoid a Saigon-like final hour.”

The interpreters – and also other locals who helped the foreign forces and contractors – put their lives on the line as much as American, NATO or other coalition soldiers. Many Western soldiers bonded with their interpreters in fox holes in the same way they forged the closest connections with their brothers in arms, argued retired Army General Carter Ham and retired Army Colonel Stuart Bradin in the Hill.

Many saved US soldiers’ lives, say officers and soldiers of all ranks.

Taliban fighters decapitated one interpreter’s brother for cooperating with “infidels,” for example, reported Al Jazeera in a story that provides a deep dive on how the US attracted Afghan English speakers by paying far more than the average Afghan could earn through honest means.

Citing figures from the nonprofit No One Left Behind, which has been pushing to help the interpreters and helps them when they arrive in the US, National Public Radio wrote how the US has given 26,500 special visas to Afghans who worked for the US government or military. They have set aside 50 per year for interpreters from Afghanistan or Iraq. The process of receiving a visa is supposed to take nine months, but some people have waited years. The amount allocated is far too little for the hundreds of thousands that qualify.

Congress is scrambling to speed up the process, the New York Times noted. They have been trying for years and years.

Afghan Interpreters who worked for Australian forces are also hitting roadblocks, reported the Guardian. Some have received permission to move Down Under but, because of the coronavirus pandemic, can’t find a flight to get there. Officials told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that they are trying to fix the process.

Britain, on the other hand, has begun shuttling the first among an expected 3,000 Afghans who have accepted an offer to move to the UK, according to Sky News. Another 1,300 have already arrived via another policy.

Interpreters who manage to find a new home face other challenges, of course. In the US, they might receive a special visa but they receive little support to help them settle, argued former interpreter Najeeb Aminyar, who is now studying law at Texas A&M University, and Noah Coburn, a political anthropologist at Bennington College in a Newsweek op-ed.

The test of a nation is how it treats its friends.

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