Afghan Translators Left Behind

Did we get all of the Afghan translators out of Kabul in the recent evacuation debacle? No. In fact, an article in Stripes yesterday revealed that literally hundreds of them were not just left behind, but their passports were destroyed in the hasty retreat from the US Embassy. Which means that though they were approved for an SIV, they can’t leave the country, even if the Taliban were to let them leave.

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The Embassy followed standard ”protocol” by destroying sensitive material prior to the Taliban takeover of the Embassy. The problem is that the records, the passports of hundreds of Afghan translators who actually assisted the United States Military were destroyed as well. The question is, we evacuated 124,000+ people in the recent mess in Kabul, but hundreds of folks with real SIVs were left behind.

Here’s an example:

U.S. military officers who advocated for Massih, their translator on deployment, were excited when they learned he had been issued his long-awaited Special Immigrant Visa. But after his Afghan passport went missing from the embassy, he seems farther away from his goal than when he started, they say.

“It’s beyond me how he has the SIV approved, all the hard work is done, and the system totally failed him,” said Roger Cartwright, a retired military lawyer who worked with Massih.

Evacuating people such as Massih may require the U.S. to get permission from the new Taliban government and to provide financial aid to neighboring countries in exchange for opening their borders to people without passports, lawyers and advocates told Stars and Stripes.

Massih believes that his family’s passports were destroyed sometime after he left them at the U.S. Embassy on Aug. 4 to receive their SIVs.

He received notice on Aug. 14 that his visas had been issued and would soon be available for pickup along with his passports, documentation shared with Stars and Stripes showed. But by then, most of the embassy had been evacuated. Kabul fell to the Taliban a day later.

The Taliban blocked every attempt Massih made to get to the airport during the U.S. evacuation, said an active-duty military officer who worked with him. The officer was not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be identified.

A threat letter sent to one of the Afghan translators by the Taliban – Screenshot via Fault Lines/Aljazeera
afghan translators
An anonymous Afghan translator afraid for his life speaks with a reporter – screenshot via Aljazeera

So who got onto US aircraft? One human rights lawyer, Kimberly Motley, told Stripes that many people got onto the planes without paperwork. Which directly contradicts the Biden administration claim that everyone was vetted.

While more than 124,000 people were evacuated before the U.S. completed its withdrawal on Aug. 31, most who applied for visas after working with American troops remain stuck under Taliban rule.

State department official to NBC

At least 400 Afghan translators who had already received their Special Immigrant Visas remain stuck under Taliban rule, in fear for their lives, all because the Biden administration dropped the ball and pulled out the military first. The State Department claims they are negotiating with other countries to take those who were left behind. But without some sort of paperwork, and with the viciousness of the Taliban being manifest on a daily basis, getting them out at all may prove to be a challenge.


Featured photo: Screenshot via NBC

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