The media is full of stories of servicemen and veterans trying to help their translators leave Afghanistan before the United States completely withdraws from Afghanistan. Stories abound about how Afghans working with the United States are now threatened by the Taliban. The media largely lacks a larger context: failure to bring these Afghans to the United States is a threat to our national security. If we fail to deliver on our promise to protect them, interpreters, contractors, and other venues will not cooperate with the United States in future disputes. The moral reputation of the United States is also threatened.
When the United States invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, it faced a severe shortage of linguists who could translate the local language. The US military relies heavily on local translators to support its mission. The correct explanation is a matter of the survival of the US military. Later, the U.S. national construction work relied heavily on hiring local contractors to support the economies of Afghanistan and Iraq. These contractors support the U.S. military strategy, provide basic services at military bases, and are committed to rebuilding the country.
These translators and contractors face great risks in cooperation with the US military. Just being seen talking to the US military may cause them and their families to be kidnapped or threatened with death. However, the US military can recruit translators and contractors. Many people join because of salary and because they strongly want to help the cause of the United States and support its growing country. But many people also joined because they promised that if they are in danger, the US military will protect them and bring them and their families to the United States.
The military has been working hard to fulfill these promises. In 2006, Congress created two Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) programs for people who work as translators, interpreters, or are employed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in Afghanistan or Iraq. The Congress allocates only 50 visas to translators and interpreters each year, and 11,000 visas to other employees. The House of Representatives recently voted to increase this limit to 19,000, but the bill faces obstacles in the Senate.
These numbers are misleading. Due to the cumbersome application procedures, the average processing time for obtaining a visa is three years. Before the Trump administration, the waiting time ranged from 18 months to nearly 3 years. Former President Trump’s “Muslim ban” has further impeded prosecution by increasing strict prosecution requirements for these close US allies. Processing time increases and SIV concessions decrease. In 2020, only 19 Afghan translators and interpreters and 364 Afghan US government employees received SIV. The current backlog of applicants exceeds 18,000, and approximately 70,000 family members are also eligible for visas. According to the International Refugee Assistance Project, which may be the most prominent advocate for these Afghans, more than 1,000 translators, interpreters, employees and their families were killed while waiting for visas. As the Taliban come to power, the number of murders and kidnappings will definitely increase.
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The United States Army strongly supports the SIV program. Advocacy for veterans was critical to the development of the 2006 plan. As Secretary of Defense, James Mattis strongly opposes President Trump’s Muslim ban and the general reduction of refugee entry restrictions because of its impact on national security. Mattis wrote a memorandum to the president, saying that the success of the United States and the safety of the U.S. military are largely due to the Afghans and Iraqis who risked their lives and fought alongside the U.S. military. Their knowledge of the local situation can help guide American strategy.
Their attitude reflects the firm commitment of the US military to protect those close to them and their own brothers, as well as the locals who support their efforts.
Current plans to assist Afghans in the American war before the United States withdraws from Afghanistan are not enough. The highest reported number of the Pentagon’s planned evacuation is 100,000, although it is unclear whether the Biden administration will support this. Most of them were reportedly sent to a third country for processing in the United States. Based on the current annual limit of 11,000 SIVs, this means that Congress has yet to provide visas to the 89,000 Afghans it plans to evacuate from the Pentagon. Most (if not all) of these Afghans can wait many years in a third country, waiting for the availability of visas and paperwork. Even if Congress raises the SIV upper limit to 19,000, this is far from sufficient.
If Afghans who supported the US war effort are not evacuated, they may die. Many people have been threatened. The United States has a moral obligation to save the lives of those who have fought with them and achieved their goals in the past 20 years. But the consequences of fulfilling our commitment to these Afghans go far beyond the endangered lives.
The world will remember that the United States broke its promise. The locals will not cooperate with or assist the U.S. military in the next war, hinder their efforts and guarantee their failure. Without the support of loyal locals, the United States will never win the hearts of the people. Without the participation of local people, the nation-building efforts of the United States (the United States claims that it will not do this, but this is the inevitable result of our war) is almost impossible. The diplomatic power of the United States will be weakened after the conflict. In the future, the recruitment of the United States will be affected. War refugees are usually one of our most loyal service personnel. The moral inaction of the US military also hampered recruitment.
Biden’s government must act

By Peter

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