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Conflict Zone Field Guide for Civilian Translators and Interpreters
by AIIC

International Association of Conference Interpreters
http://aiic.net/

Afghan War News > Topics > Afghan Interpreters


Interpreters for the coalition forces have been indispensible throughout the Afghan war. No much gets done without an interpreter. They are the key to communicating in Afghanistan and understanding the culture.


U.S. Department of State Fails Again.

The Department of State (DoS) is failing the Afghan interpreters that risked their lives for years on end serving U.S. Soldiers and Marines. Congress has authorized the DoS to grand 1,500 visas per year for Afghans who have assisted the U.S. in Afghanistan. During that time the DoS has approved a dismal 200 per year. Yet in 2012 the DoS has granted over 2 million visas; 100,000 to Russians and 20,000 to Saudis. 1. Something is seriously wrong with the process.

Visas for Afghan Interpreters


State Department Comes on Board with the Program?

In a case of 'too little too late' the State Department now seems to take the plight of Afghan interpreters seriously. In 2014 the State Department, as opposed to earlier years, actually used all of the visa allocations provided to them by Congress. Now the State Department is urging Congress (as of August 2014) to provide more visa opportunities to Afghan interpreters. 2. Nice to have the State Department on the team for a change! 3.

Program Extended One Year. The visa program was about to expire at the end of September 2013 but Congress managed to extend it by one year. Hopefully the State Department can get its act together and approve some visas.

"Afghan Allies Extension Act". This act would extend for one fiscal year the 2009 Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghan civilians who worked with the U.S. government. The act will broaden the categories of workers and provide for an additional year.


Other Coalition Countries and Their Intepreters.

The United States is not the only country with a poor track record of taking care of those who 'took care of them'. France, United Kingdom, Australia and others have also taken some heat on this issue. In fact, in August 2015 the UK Ministry of Defence had to issue a press release on its policy towards interpreters.


Websites with Information on the Special Immigrant VISA Programs

Afghan SIV Program Update, U.S. Visas, U.S. Department of State
http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/immigrate/types/afghans-work-for-us.html

SIV Info. The State Department provides detailed information on the Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Iraqi and Afghan Translators/Interpreters at the link below.
http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/info/info_3738.html

Visa Types for Immigrants. State Department.
http://travel.state.gov/visa/immigrants/types/types_1326.html

No One Left Behind. The mission of No One Left Behind is to assist Afghan and Iraqi combat interpreters who have received Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) with resettlement in the United States.
http://www.nooneleft.org


Firms Providing Interpreters and Translators for Afghanistan

Mission Essential Personnel, LLC
www.missionessential.com


Publications on Interpreters in Afghanistan
(listed in chronological order)

Bruno, Andorra. Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs". Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report R43725, January 20, 2015.
www.afghanwarnews.info/pubs/SIVCRS20Jan15.pdf

Bruno, Andorra. Iraqi and Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Programs, Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report R43725, September 12, 2014.
www.afghanwarnews.info/pubs/SpecialImmigrantVisaProgramsCRS12Sep14.pdf


Videos about Interpreters in Afghanistan

February 19, 2015. U.S. Army Veteran Matt Zeller talks to CNN's Michael Holmes about the thousands of Iraqi and Afghan linguists who helped U.S. troops and have since been forgotten.
www.cnn.com/videos/world/2015/02/19/intv-amanpour-matt-zeller-iraq-afghanistan-translators-holmes.cnn

October 20, 2014. John Oliver in his TV program "Last Week Tonight" blasts the U.S. State Department on its treatment of Afghan interpreters.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=QplQL5eAxlY

August 21, 2013. "Afghan Interpreters Fear for their lives as U.S. Troops Prepare to Withdraw". The Huffington Post.


News Reports about Interpreters in Afghanistan

May 1, 2017. "Spending bill includes 2,500 new visas for Afghans", The Hill Defense Blog. The bipartisan agreement in Congress will put the visa program back on track. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul had stopped interviewing applicants for the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program due to a lack of available visas.

August 18, 2016. "Dimming Hope for Afghan Translators", The New York Times. Senators Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Jeff Sessions of Alabama are standing in the way of more visas for Afghan interpreters - playing politics in an election year.

August 9, 2016. "They Will Kill Us: Afghan Translators Plead for Delayed U.S. Visas", The New York Times.

August 9, 2016. "Fearing for their lives, Afghan translators for US plead for visas", The Boston Globe.

June 23, 2016. "A Broken Promise in Afghanistan", by Jeanne Shaheen, The New York Times.

June 23, 2016. "Afghan interpreters 'betrayed' by UK and US", BBC News.

May 25, 2016. "Top US general: Afghan interpreters in danger if visa program axed", Stars and Stripes.

May 20, 2016. "McCain to 'shame' senators over Afghan, Iraqi visas", Stars and Stripes. A large defense authorization bill left out the extending of the SIV program for Afghan and Iraqi interpreters.

April 22, 2016. "Former US interpreters worry Taliban will arrive before visa does", Stars and Stripes. One interpreter has been waiting five years for the State Department to issue his visa.

March 1, 2016. "State Department Fixes Unfair Visa Change", The New York Times. After yet another embarrassment the State Department reverses course once again in the face of criticism.

February 16, 2016. "Rule Change Dashes Hope for Afghan Military Allies Seeking Refuge in U.S.", Free Beacon.

February 4, 2016. "An Unpaid Debt to Afghan Interpreters", The New York Times.

November 21, 2015. "From Afghanistan to South Carolina: A refugee's story", The Post and Courier. A former interpreter starts over again.

November 14, 2015. "Some struggling Afghan, Iraqi interpreters get help from charity". Military Times. No One Left Behind (www.nooneleft.org) provides some basic assistance.

November 9, 2015. "The Long, Slow Betrayal of America's Interpreters", War is Boring.

November 5, 2015. "Afghan interpreter torn between two worlds", Deutshe Welle. An interpreter working for the German military had to flee because of Taliban pressure. He now lives in Germany while his family resides in Afghanistan.

September 17, 2015. "Forget the Syrian refugees. America needs to bring its Afghan and Iraqi interpreters here first", The Washington Post.

August 28, 2015. "Betrayal of the brave", Daily Mail. An Afghan interpreter who helped British forces was shot dead on his doorstep at his families farm.

May 18, 2015. "Danish veterans accuse government of failing their Afghan interpreters". Reuters. The goverment of Denmark has broken its promise to grant asylum to local Afghan interpreters who helped Danish soldiers during their deployment to Afghanistan.

May 2, 2015. "The Afghan interpreters cut adrift by French army". France 24.

April 22, 2015. "Where the Grave Isn't Free: An Afghan Interpreter Struggles with US Resettlement." Voice of America.

April 7, 2015. "Afghan interpreter who worked with British army refused UK asylum". The Guardian. He claims he has been targeted by the Taliban but the Home Office doesn't believe he would be in danger.

March 26, 2015. "Less than 100 brave interpreters from Afghan War resettled in UK despite Taliban threats". Express.

March 8, 2015. "NZ military medals awarded to Afghan interpreters". TV New Zealand. The men and there families were resettled in NZ in recognition to their service as interpreters for the New Zealand military in Afghanistan. (news report and 30 second video).

February 20, 2015. "It took eight years, but Afghan interpreter for 28th Division team makes it to America". PennLive.com. A SGM overcomes the State Department with persistence to get a visa for his interpreter.

February 19, 2015. "Matt Zeller and Janis Shinwari Saved Each Other's Lives - and Now Help Others". People.com.

January 13, 2015. "Keeping a Promise to Afghans". An editorial by The New York Times.

January 6, 2015. "State Department Awards Immigration Visas to 1,000 Dead Interpreters". Duffel Blog. A humorous poke at the State Department about a deadly serious topic.

December 26, 2014. "Afghan Interpreter Finds Refuge at Marine's Home". Military.com. A U.S. Marine provides a fresh start.

December 17, 2014. "In the last days of Afghanistan, too many Shadows of Vietnam", Defense in Depth Blog. Captain Newson states the case for expanded legislation for the benefit of Afghan interpreters.

December 14, 2014. "Afghan interpreters risked all for U.S., struggle in Omaha". Omaha.com.

December 1, 2014. "A Fight for Afghan Interpreters". The Boston Herald.

December 8, 2014. "Visas set for 4,000 Afghan interpreters who helped U.S., but many left behind." The Washington Times.

December 4, 2014. "Former Afghan translator living in US finally reunited with family". Stars and Stripes.

November 30, 2014. "Afghan interpreters, targeted for helping the US military, finally make it to America". Public Radio International.

November 26, 2014. "Left to the mercy of the Taliban". BBC News.

November 18, 2014. "Afghan interpreters deserve visas". Columbia Daily Tribune.

October 23, 2014. "Why is a Comedian the Only One Talking about the Plight of Afghan Interpreters?" Council of Foreign Affairs.

October 20, 2014. "Abandoned Allies: Afghan Interpreters Left Behind by US". Reason.com.

September 11, 2014. "As a U.S. War Winds Down, Afghans Look for a Way Out". Public Radio East.

August 23, 2014. "Heroes Left to Die". War on the Rocks. A Special Forces officer with 8 tours in Afghanistan cites his disgust with the State Department's treatment of Afghan interpreters.

August 10, 2014. "Afghan actor links cultures as US war translator". Stars and Stripes. Interpreter worked in Hollywood then gave up career to work as an interpreter for Marines for two years in Afghanistan.

August 8, 2014. "Visas For Afghan and Iraqi Interpreters: The Case for Neo-Colonialism". Forbes.com. An alternative approach to visas is presented.

August 7, 2014. "Interpreters are caught in the crossfire in Afghanistan". Deutsche Welle.

August 4, 2014. "Obama expected to sign bill allowing more Afghans to immigrate". Military Times. The bill will renew the State Department's Special Immigrant Visa program and add 1,000 new visas for Afghans who assisted U.S. forces.

August 1, 2014. "Afghan interpreter visa program expanded in rare bipartisan vote". The Washington Post.

July 22, 2014. "Is the US Abandoning Afghan Interpreters to Certain Death?" Reason.com. From 2009 to 2013, Congress said 7,500 visas could be issued by the but the State Department approved only 2,000.

July 21, 2014. "Senators propose visa increase for Afghan civilians". The Hill. The bill would extend the visa program for another year allowing Afghan interpreters who worked for military forces to gain entry into the United States.

May 16, 2014. "Afghan grad learns pluralism lesson as he earns degree". USA Today. College expenses paid for by U.S. Army officer.

May 8, 2014. "Lawmakers aim to widen Afghan visa effort". The Hill Blog.

April 28, 2014. "For Canada's Afghan interpreters, the battle never ends". The Star.

April 2014. "The Interpreters We Left Behind". By Paul Solotaroff, Men's Journal. The United States (State Department) has abandoned fixers and translators to dangerous countrymen who view them as traitors.

April 23, 2014. "Bringing the Bridges Home". Independent European Daily Express.  Foreign forces leaving vulnerable interpreters behind in Afghanistan.

March 24, 2014. "Afghans Who Helped the U.S. Fear That Time Has Run Out". The New York Times. The U.S. State Department has intentionally failed our valued allies . . . again.

March 14, 2014. "Swedish army translator flees Afghanistan". The Local (Sweden). The former interpreter for Swedish forces in Mes-e-Sharif requests asylum.

March 11, 2014. "Afghan interpreters who worked alongside coalition troops are being resettled in Australia". Radio Australia.

March 6, 2014. "Ex-Afghan translators for German army fear attacks". Federal News Radio.

February 19, 2014. "Tongue tied in Afghanistan". Public Broadcasting System. PBS exposes the failure of the state department in granting visas to Afghan interpreters.

February 14, 2014. "Afghan interpreters finally offered residency". 3 News. Evidently the U.S. State Department isn't the only organization that has difficulty understanding the importance of interpreters. New Zealand has also been slow in process visas for interpreters.

February 9, 2014. "Escape from Afghanistan: A father's journey". WUSA. A Afghan interpreter discusses his new life in the United States.

February 8, 20914. "U.S. visa backlog leaves Afghan interpreters in limbo". The Seattle Times. This story just won't go away!

February 4, 2014. "The US trusted them with a gun, but not a visa". Brisbane Times.

January 31, 2014. "U.S. visa backlog leaves Afghan interpreters in limbo". Los Angeles Times. The State Department, despite its claims, is still screwing over the Afghan interpreters who have applied for visas.

January 24, 2014. "Former Interpreter for The Times is Killed in Afghanistan". The New York Times. Noor Ahmad Noori was killed near Lashkar Gah, Helmand.

January 23, 2014. "Left Behind: Afghan translator doges Taliban on long road to America", NBC News.com. Evades Taliban and out-waits inept State Department.

January 3, 2014. "Support Afghans who helped U.S. soldiers". USA Today. An U.S. Army officer who recently returned from an Afghan tour points out the disservice to the Afghan interpreters who have aided the U.S.

January 2, 2014. "Afghan translators deserve special visas - and fast". The Washington Post. The post has published an editorial that criticizes the State Department for dragging its heels on the Afghan interpreter visa mess.

November 14, 2013. "Leave no interpreter behind". The Salt Lake Tribune. Since the program's inception four years ago, only 1,648 interpreters have received Afghan special immigrant visas out of the 8,750 allocated by Congress. The State Department is dragging its feet for no apparent reason.

November 8, 2013. "Advocates: U.S. has 'moral responsibility' to fix interpreter visa blunder". Army Times. In a bureaucratic "Catch 22" the State Department is excluding Afghans who worked for Americans but through ISAF. Their hair-brained reasoning is "Well, they worked for ISAF not the U.S." My question is just how stupid can the State Department employees be?

November 7, 2013. "Afghan Interpreter Finally Lands in US". Voice of America. State Department finally discovers sanity after immense pressure from Congress and the media.

October 21, 2013. "Afghan SAS interpreters say requests ignored". Radio New Zealand News. Six SAS interpreters wait for VISAs from Kiwis.

October 19, 2013. "Interpreters wait for promise of life in USA". USA Today. Many have been waiting for years for their visas and fear for their lives.

October 18, 2103. "More Afghan interpreters granted NZ residence". TV NZ News. New Zealand accepts nine Afghan interpreters and 26 family members.

October 2, 2013. "Our forgotten allies in Iraq and Afghanistan". News & Observer.

October 1, 2013. "Iraqi, and Afghan, translators deserve the visas they were promised". The Washington Post. Congress needs to extend visa law.

September 28, 2013. "Throw lifeline to Afghans who helped U.S.". The MetroWest.

September 27, 2013. "Afghan interpreter who served U.S. deserves a chance". The Reporter. An Afghan interpreter whose situation caused embarrassment to the State Department now finds that he is on the the receiving end of U.S. Department of State revenge.

September 26, 2013. "The Forgotten Victims of September 30th". The Blog on The Huffington Post. An opinion piece by U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer of OR.

September 25, 2013. "Afghan Interpreter Has Visa Revoked". The Washington Free Beacon. Friend to America is abandoned by the country he served.

September 25, 2013. "Bill would extend visa program for interpreters". Army Times.

September 24, 2013. "State Department's revocation of visa dashes hopes of Afghan interpreter". The Washington Post. The State Department, for no valid reason that it can cite, revokes the visa of an interpreter who served the U.S. for seven years.

September 21, 2013. "U.S., Afghan service members honor a 'A true patriot of Afghanistan'". DVIDS. Story by CJSOTF-A. Afghan interpreter, Naeem Ramzani, conducted more than 80 combat missions with U.S. Special Forces prior to his death.

September 12, 2013. "For interpreters for U.S. forces, time may be running out to get visas". Army Times. A backlogged visa program for Afghan interpreters expires soon; State Department can't get their act together.

September 6, 2013. "Afghan aide targeted by the Taliban fears US may leave him behind". Yahoo News. His application for a U.S. visa is mired in bureaucracy.

September 6, 2013. "Campaign raises tuition to help former interpreter". CBC News. A female interpreter who worked for Canadian military in Afghanistan will now go to college in Canada.

August 14, 2013. "Petition to protect rights of Afghan interpreters is delivered to Downing Street". The Independent.

January 11, 2013. "Army Failure to Screen Afghans Found to Risk U.S. Troops". Bloomberg News. Story cites report that Mission Essential Personnel LLC did not screen its employees properly.

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Endnotes

1. For the figures of how many visas DoS has approved for Afghans see a story here -  "The United States' disservice to Afghan translators", The Washington Post, September 15, 2013.

2. See Visas for Deserving Afghans: Our Moral Responsibility, U.S. Department of State Official Blog - DIPNOTE, posted by Heather Higginbottom, Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, July 24, 2014.
http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2014/07/24/visas-deserving-afghans-our-moral-responsibility

3. See Additional Visas Authorized for the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa Program, by John Kerry, Secretary of State, August 1, 2014.
www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2014/08/230146.htm

4. See "HMG Policy on Afghan Interpreters", Defence in the Media Blog, Gov.uk, August 21, 2015. The post states that claims of abandoning Afghan interpreters are "completely erroneous".
https://modmedia.blog.gov.uk/2015/08/21/hmg-policy-on-afghan-interpreters/

 


 

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