The Taliban is targeting Afghan citizens who helped United States soldiers in their campaign in the region. Helping the interpreters is not a partisan issue, it is an American issue. They need and deserve all the help we can give them.
Last week Politico reported that the Biden administration plans “to evacuate thousands of Afghan interpreters and their families to a third country as they await U.S. visa processing.” Although no concrete plan has been detailed yet, this is an excellent decision to come from the Biden administration.
During The United States’ nearly 20-year involvement in Afghanistan, Afghan citizens worked alongside Americans primarily as interpreters but served in a variety of roles aiding our military operations. Without their help, the military would have had a far more difficult time accomplishing their goals in the region. Many Americans owe their lives to their service.
In April, President Biden announced a full withdrawal of the United States military from Afghanistan, bringing all 2,500 remaining troops home by September 11th of this year.
America’s withdrawal is leaving these interpreters and their families vulnerable to attacks from terrorists. As has happened in every previously attempted withdrawal, the Taliban and other terror groups will gain stronger footholds within the region. This gives them the time and resources to seek revenge on those who have aided the west in the fight against terror.
According to No One Left Behind, a non-profit charity that helps Afghan interpreters obtain visas and become acclimated to the United States, more than 300 interpreters and their family members have been killed since 2014 due to their service to our country. These interpreters and their families have made great sacrifices to aid Americans in the war on terror. Now, it’s our turn to help them.
The current Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program has allocated 26,500 visas since 2014 for Afghans who were employed by The United States military. According to The Department of State, 90 percent of SIV cases are processed within 90 days of submission, however, some individual cases take over a year to gain approval. There are currently over 10,000 interpreters, not including their families, stuck in the bureaucratic process to obtain visas.
The timeline for approval has been slowed down as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The U.S. embassy in Kabul is currently in the midst of a Covid-19 emergency in which over 100 staff members have become ill. This is the third such outbreak that has led to the closure of the embassy, putting a freeze on applications.
Earlier this month, a bill was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators that would allocate 20,000 additional visas, make it easier to qualify for the SIV program, and expand eligibility to include some family members of interpreters who have been killed. The bill was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary on May 25th, where it remains at the time of publishing.
Another bipartisan bill passed The House of Representatives on Tuesday that would remove the requirement of a medical examination prior to application approval. The exam could instead be completed within 30 days of relocation to the United States. The bill now moves on to the Senate.
With a little over two months to go until U.S. forces are completely withdrawn from Afghanistan, swift action must be taken. The Federal Government is moving in the right direction, but we must continue our efforts until every interpreter and their family is out of Afghanistan.
The Afghans who served alongside American forces are heroes who saved American lives overseas. Their service to our country has put them in harm’s way, even after their commitment ended. They should be rewarded for their brave service; we owe it to them.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.