Our View

Afghan interpreters who helped U.S. deserve visas

By From page A6 | November 15, 2013

The issue: Do we have no qualms about abandoning our friends to danger?

The first paragraph of Sunday’s Washington Post story out of Kabul pretty much lays out the basics:

“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.”

MEANWHILE, as the United States steps up preparations for withdrawal, the Taliban are stepping up threats against their countrymen who aided the Americans. Recognizing those threats, Congress authorized 8,750 Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who are in danger because they aided our soldiers.

In the program’s four years, just 1,648 interpreters have received those visas. A department official said an applicant has to establish that “he or she has experienced or is experiencing an ongoing serious threat as a consequence of employment by or on behalf of the U.S. government.”

Department officials declined to explain what constitutes “a serious threat.” One would think that a letter nailed to the front door threatening to behead the interpreter and kill his entire family would pass muster as a “serious threat.” But perhaps not.

The applications are screened by the U.S. embassy in Kabul and then forwarded to Washington for a final determination. That determination is usually “no.” Maybe the State Department types grew up in unusually tough neighborhoods, but somehow we doubt it. One suspects that the decision might go the other way if the functionary making the determination had to go to the interpreter’s village to do it.

WE DESPERATELY needed the services of these interpreters, and we made promises, explicit and implicit, that we would take care of the people who helped us. And, having been granted asylum for themselves and their families, they can still help us in many ways, including by wearing an American uniform.

If we leave these interpreters behind, we will not only be going back on our word and doing something dishonorable, we will be handing a propaganda victory to the Islamic insurgents who can justifiably point out that, in the end, the United States has no qualms about abandoning its friends.

Our View

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