Afghan interpreters fear US is ‘leaving them to die’

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Afghan interpreters fear US is 'leaving them to die'

Thousands of Afghan interpreters who risked their lives to help the US military face new threats as they attempt to secure visas promised to them by the American government, which is now pulling its forces out of their homeland, according to reports.

“I don’t know why it takes so long, we are already in the United States’ database,” one former interpreter, Zia Ghafoori, told the BBC. “I don’t know who could explain to the State Department what these guys have done for both countries.”

Roughly 70,000 Afghan interpreters and their families have moved to the United States since 2008 under a special visa program to reward them for their service. But 20,000 more are still in Afghanistan, seeking a path to the United States.

The process could take years and some 300 interpreters have already died waiting, according to the report.

“These people stood up and fought shoulder and shoulder to support both countries … and we’re closing our eyes and leaving them there, leaving them to die,” said Ghafoori, who served in combat alongside US troops.

Zia Ghafoori, a former Afghan interpreter who worked with U.S. Special Forces for 14 years.
Zia Ghafoori, a former Afghan interpreter who worked with U.S. Special Forces for 14 years.
AP Photo/ Sarah Blake Morgan

With most American forces already out of Afghanistan, and the Taliban quickly retaking the country, the threats to those who aided the US are greater than ever.

Interpreters are in “mortal danger,” retired Col. Mike Jason told the BBC. “This is not a mystery. Our interpreters have been assassinated for a decade plus.”

Zia, who now lives in Charlotte, N.C., with his wife and four children, launched a charity, the Interpreting Freedom Foundation, in 2019 to help interpreters land visas and resettle in the US.

Former Afghan interpreters protesting in front of the United States Embassy in Kabul on June 25, 2021.
Former Afghan interpreters protesting in front of the United States Embassy in Kabul on June 25, 2021.
REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo
Zia Ghafoori with the Purple Heart he received in his hoem in Charlotte, North Carolina where he relocated.
Zia Ghafoori with the Purple Heart he received in his home in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he relocated.
AP Photo/ Sarah Blake Morgan)

He’s asking the Biden Administration and immigrant officials to expedite the process of moving interpreters to the United States before they’re killed.

“The Taliban are still killing innocent people,” he said. “Nothing has changed,” adding that he loves his adopted country, but thinks politicians have betrayed those Afghanis who served the US cause.

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