Condemning our faithful translators in Afghanistan to horrible deaths

The people who bravely allied themselves with American efforts to lift Afghanistan out of medieval theocracy — estimated to be 170–180,000 in number — are about to learn that trusting America was a bad bet.  Many will be condemned to torture and death as the reward for their service.  You can be certain that the lesson will not be lost on those elsewhere in the world contemplating allying themselves with American goals for their countries.

Former congressman Steve Israel writes in The Hill:

Someone needs to speak for those who spoke for our troops. 

I'm talking about the Afghan translators who provided critical support to U.S. and coalition forces during the two-decade war. These people took heroic risk in defying the Taliban, and if we withdraw our remaining forces without providing them refuge, that risk grows exponentially. Fatally.  

One former translator told the New York Times, "I get phone calls from the Taliban saying, 'We will kill you' — they know who I am and that I worked for the Americans." A U.S. official deployed in Afghanistan told the American Legion that his translator "has a bounty on his head. The Taliban has no remorse. They will torture, rape and kill his kids, his wife, his mom and dad, brothers and sisters — whoever they can find — in front of him. Then they will behead him."

Announcing our troop withdrawals put a bounty on all their heads.  With enough time to plan ahead, the safe evacuation of these people and their families could have been arranged.  Now, with time short, worries about loyalty have been touted:

I realize that applicants must be fully vetted (although they presumably were when they were hired in Afghanistan). The risk of fraudulent submissions is real. But this isn't an intractable ideological or partisan battle; it's a solvable bureaucratic one. 

The State Department has said it is "Committed to supporting those who have helped U.S. military and other government personnel perform their duties, often at great personal risk to themselves and their families." Which means, as it usually does, the problem requires resources — more people processing visas and accelerating the background checks on applicants and their families.  

Those resources are not being applied. Michele Keleman reports for NPR:

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul says it is suffering from a major COVID-19 outbreak that has largely confined staff to their quarters and is disrupting many of its operations. Earlier this week, the embassy announced that it was suspending in-person visa interviews for Afghans who had worked for the U.S. military.

In a note sent to staff, seen by NPR, the embassy says 114 people "have COVID and are in isolation; one has died, and several have been medevaced." The note goes on to say that military hospital ICU resources are at full capacity and that the embassy has been forced to "create temporary, on-compound COVID-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients." Most of the cases involve individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated.


U.S. embassy in Kabul celebrated U.S. Independence Day in 2009.
U.S. government photo, CC BY-ND 2.0.

A friend notes:

We apprehend 180,000 illegals crossing the Southern border each month, coddle them and allow many to stay, in addition to the tens of thousands of monthly getaways.  Yet we can't more quickly vet and save the Afghan translators who helped us over the past 20 years.  It's disgraceful. 

It is a moral stain on America and on the Biden administration.  It is also a crippling signal to future potential friends overseas that trusting Uncle Sam is a bad bet.

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