The word of Afghan interpreters who’ve assisted US forces in that country, sometimes for years, apparently isn’t worth much at the US State Department.
In a story on the topic Sunday, the Washington Post wrote, “A growing number of Afghan interpreters who worked alongside American troops there are being denied U.S. visas allotted by Congress because the State Department says there is no serious threat to their lives.”
A few Afghans who seek U.S. visas might be posing as interpreters, although if so, that ought to be easily debunked. But to suggest that Afghans who helped U.S. troops aren’t in danger is to deny reality. Doing so not only puts Afghans who believed in our mission at risk, it also breaks a promise to them that if they — and Iraqis before them — helped us, we would work to get them and their families to the United States.
The Taliban, who don’t hesitate to shoot adolescent school girls, have repeatedly threatened to kill Afghans who worked for U.S. forces. The Taliban and other Islamic terrorists also have threatened, and in some cases carried out threats, to kill entire families of individuals who helped us.
Congress has authorized 8,750 Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans whose lives are in danger because they helped U.S. forces. Yet in the last four years, fewer than 1,700 interpreters have received them; the wait is long and the requirements are high.
To qualify, an applicant must show that “he or she has experienced or is experiencing an ongoing serious threat” for having helped Americans. And although State Department officials haven’t elaborated on what constitutes a serious threat, they didn’t think a warning nailed to the door of one interpreter’s home threatening to behead him and execute his entire family qualified.
As fearful as some Afghans are, their situations will only become more precarious with the departure of U.S. troops. Some have been called “spy” and “traitor” when they accompanied U.S. troops. In other cases, the Taliban has alerted villages that certain individuals are wanted.
Appropriately, military personnel who know better than the State Department the work these individuals performed — and the lives they’ve saved and the peril they now face — have stepped in to try to speed the visa process. They recognize these special visas as a debt of honor. So should the State Department.