Small Wars Journal

Disgraceful, to say the least, we are better than this…

In Afghanistan, Interpreters Who Helped U.S. in War Denied Visas; U.S. Says They Face No Threat by Kevin Sieff, Washington Post.

A growing number of Afghan interpreters who worked alongside American troops are being denied U.S. visas allotted by Congress because the State Department says there is no serious threat against their lives.

But the interpreters, many of whom served in Taliban havens for years, say U.S. officials are drastically underestimating the danger they face. Immigration attorneys and Afghan interpreters say the denials are occurring just as concerns about Taliban retribution are mounting due to the withdrawal of U.S. forces...

Read on.



Tue, 01/28/2014 - 9:47am

Did every Tory loyalist move to Canada after we won the US War of Independence? It the terps country, they were working to make it better right? Or were they just looking for airfare to the US? They should stay and fix there country rather than run to the land of the big PX.


Mon, 11/11/2013 - 4:38pm

IIRC the only nation which has readily accepted interpreters on exit of their employers from Iraq and Afghanistan has been Denmark. Certainly not the UK. A 'debt of honour'; we are so used to debt these days, some people have forgotten honour. Shame.

Outlaw 09

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 5:48pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

No different than the Cambodians we trained and then flew into Cambodia in 1970 to support Lon Nol and then we did dropped Nol and them.

The interesting thing is the interpreters we used in VN in SF were paid the same rates--abeit a tad more than the CIDG were earning but nowhere near the rates for Iraq and AFG which were being driven by L3 Comms as they were making their percentage as well.

SF VN interpreters did have one break---they were exempt from the SVN Army draft.

If anyone should be held responsible for visas/promises then L3 as they made many in order to get local intrepreters.

Robert C. Jones

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 3:55pm

This is one of the many problems with the conflicts of choice the US has involved itself in since WWII. We did not need to prevent a North Korean reunification of the Korean Peninsula. We did not need to create a state of South Vietnam and attempt to deny the post colonial victory over the French won by the Viet Minh. We did not need to go to Grenada, or Kuwait. We did not need to shift the balance of power to elevate the Northern Alliance into power in Afghanistan, or to take Saddam out of power in Iraq. These were all conflicts of choice. The US would have continued to be the US if we would have made other choices in each of those cases. But those were the choices our civilian leadership made, and in turn, those were the conflicts of choice our military waged. We can judge these choices after the fact, but at the time they seemed like the right choice to make to advance our interests.

Likewise when certain populations and individuals in these places believe it is in their personal interest to throw their lot in with a foreign force it is a choice. In Afghanistan today many of the Afghans who throw their lot in with the Americans are the same Afghans who threw their lot in with the Russians over 30 years ago.

Choices. We all make choices. Nations, populations, individuals. Too often we all make bad choices. But when one perceives the options to be a worse choice, sometimes a bad choice is the only choice to make.

I worry more about those villages who were coaxed into joining the VSO program than I do those individuals who took highly lucrative jobs as terps. Individual choice and individual consequences. We all should be prepared to deal with that. But when leaders make bad choices, be it village leaders in Afghanistan, or national leaders in the US, many suffer who never had a choice to make.

This is a messy business. A messy business.

Bill M.

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 1:04pm

In reply to by Dave Maxwell

Perhaps most people in the world are like us in that they have short memories and are largely uninformed on what is happening in the world so they trust the Americans who show up with briefcases or bags full of money and promises. I do agree this provides powerful material for our adversaries' PSYOP, and anyone with access to the internet can pull the stories down. Very sad at the human level, disgusting at our government level.

Dave Maxwell

Mon, 11/11/2013 - 8:57am

I often wonder how we ever get indigenous people to work with the US military. We have been making variations of this mistake in almost every war and conflict since WWII whether the Philippine Guerrillas, the Korean Partisans, or the tribes of Vietnam. Sure the military should not make promises that immigration officials won't keep but I find it ludicrous that bureaucrats can pass judgment on the safety of those who supported US operations. I would like to say that this will have future blowback but the truth is indigenous people have continued to work with us despite past history. I do fear in the Information Age that our actions may become more common knowledge and it may get harder to recruit indigenous forces or they will make demands via contract requirements that the military will not be able to honor because of our bureaucracy.