“Due to high risk from Taliban and target killing, the company which I am working with told me that I should not go to my job site for a short time. 代替, I stay up nights keeping watch to see if anyone is trying to plant a bomb around my house, and my wife does the same by day while I sleep,” Khan said in a statement to CNN, shared through his attorney Julie Kornfeld.
“I cannot go to city for shopping and hospital for treatment. If I go, I wear turban, surgical mask and glasses to be safe from targeting,” 他加了. CNN is only using his middle name for concerns over his security.
Khan has worked for two different US companies contracted by the Defense Department in Afghanistan for more than six years and applied for a special immigrant visa (病毒性病毒) three years ago, according to Kornfeld.
拜登的 announcement last week that the US will withdraw troops marks the end of the decades-long war
, which has taken a deadly toll on the people of Afghanistan
, many of whom have risked it all to help the United States fight for their own democracy
. Translators are among them
, providing a key link to the thousands of military and US government contractors
“We’re expecting the security situation to rapidly deteriorate for anyone who’s seen as opposing the Taliban. That will certainly include translators and other employees of the US government,” said Betsy Fisher, director of strategy at International Refugee Assistance Project.
The visa program
, established in 2009
, is intended for Afghan citizens
, along with their spouses and unmarried children under
21, who work for the US government in Afghanistan
. It is a distinct program and doesn’t count toward the refugee cap
, which the White House has recently come under scrutiny over
Thousands of Afghans, including interpreters for the US military and contractors, have moved to the United States via the visa. The average time to process the visas is an arduous and lengthy process; in recent years the processing for each approved applicant has taken more than 500 天, according to State Department data reviewed by CNN.
Abdul, 阿富汗国民, fled his country fearing he might be killed because he worked as an engineer for the US government in Afghanistan.
“I left everything,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I left my family and my colleagues and it was very painful for me.”
Abdul requested CNN call him by an alias to protect his identity because he says his life is in danger from insurgents he fears are still hunting him down.
‘Eyes and ears’
The US diplomatic mission in Afghanistan would be impossible without the local partners and translators, US diplomats say.
“They are our eyes and ears. They have all the contacts we benefit from. They set up meetings and they know the power brokers,” explained one US diplomat who recently served in Afghanistan. “They are also our continuity because the turnover of US diplomats every year is about 90 percent.”
Many of the translators have family members they are also worried about, US diplomats told CNN. It is the fear for their family that has led some of them to finally apply to a program they hoped they would never have to use.
“These are resilient and determined people. They thought peace was coming so they did not think they would have to go to the US. Now with the Taliban’s possible return they have no other option,” said a second US diplomat.
A State Department spokesperson said they are well aware of the risks facing translators and others.
“Everyone involved in this process, whether in Washington or at our embassies abroad, is fully aware of the contributions of our Afghan colleagues and the risks they face. As Secretary (Antony) 闪烁说, we have a commitment to those who worked with us and helped us, whether it was our military or our diplomats, and we’re committed to moving forward on the Special Immigrant Visa program for them,” 发言人说.
The process has slowed down over the last year as the Covid-19 pandemic shut down a tremendous amount of travel
: In fiscal year
2019, 国务院 发行 9,741 SIVs to Afghans
, but in fiscal year
2020 they only 发行 1,799 of the visas
, according to State Department data
曾经有 “hundreds and hundreds of visas” that expired, because no one could depart the country to come to the US, according to Lindsey Sharp with the International Rescue Committee. The embassy in Afghanistan “最后” restarted some processing and reissued expired visas, Sharp said, but capacity is still limited.
“冠状病毒病, for the last year, has kind of ground issuance to a halt,” 她说. “The backlogs now are large.”
The State Department says they have now increased resources and taken steps to prioritize applications from interpreters and translators, with extra consideration for those who helped in combat operations, 根据发言人. Those efforts include a temporary increase in consular staffing at the US Embassy in Kabul to assist with the visas.
— who used to be an Afghan interpreter working alongside troops
, and likely saved the life of one of those troops
, before arriving in the US in
2013 via the SIV program
— said he’s received hundreds of messages through Facebook
, both personally and through his group’s page
, No One Left Behind
“Since people heard of this news that the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan, I’m receiving hundreds of messages, like Facebook messages, from my friends, from other people who served as an interpreter or translator or contractors in Iraq or Afghanistan,” 他说. “The people are asking for help.”
Shinwari has had a hard time keeping up with the messages because of the constant flow: “What do I tell them?” 他说.
While working as an interpreter in Afghanistan, Shinwari lived on the US base, not only for work but as his protection, 他解释. Without that, he’d be at risk.
“These interpreters, they’re the breadwinner of a big family,” 他说. “If the breadwinner dies, the whole family dies.”
Concern from lawmakers
Members of Congress have also shared concerns about the future of those who have helped the US mission in Afghanistan.
在星期三, a bipartisan group of 16 House lawmakers, including several who have served in the US military and at the State Department, sent a letter to the President urging the administration to commit to the Afghan people who assisted the United States on the ground.
“We must provide a path to safety for those who loyally worked alongside U.S. 军队, 外交官, and contractors, and work with our international partners to provide options for Afghans who would face a credible fear of persecution if the Taliban return to power,” wrote Democratic Reps. 杰森·克劳, Ami Bera, Earl Blumenauer, 贾里德·金（Jared Golden）, Sara Jacobs, Andy Kim, Tom Malinowski, Seth Moulton, Stephanie Murphy and Adam Schiff and Republican Reps. Don Bacon, Neal Dunn, 亚当·金津格, 彼得·迈耶, Michael Waltz and Brad Wenstrup.
“This effort advances our vital national security interests by demonstrating to the world the manner in which we treat our partners,” said the lawmakers, who announced they would form the “Honoring Our Promises Working Group” focused on crafting legislation to expand and expedite the SIV program and coordinate with the administration.
共和党代表. Mike Waltz of Florida, who served in Afghanistan as a Special Forces officer, said he’s been hearing from Afghans, many of whom have worked with the US for years, “in a state of panic.”
“I had an interpreter executed while in line waiting for a SIV visa, along with several of his cousins and brothers. So they really are taking their entire extended family’s lives in their hands, and they’re now just abandoned. So this notion that we can go back, 你懂, whenever we need to after abandoning our local partners, it’s a lie, it’s just not true,” Waltz added.
Blumenauer, a Democrat of Oregon and longtime supporter of the SIV program, told CNN he plans to share his concerns with the administration.
“I personally feel and will be communicating to them that I hope one of the unintended consequences is not putting people at risk who literally risked their lives to help Americans, as translators, truck drivers … We have an obligation to get this right,” 他说.
民主党参议员. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, also a long-time supporter of the SIV program, said in a statement she was “disheartened by the President’s decision, which I believe not only risks the hard-fought gains in Afghanistan, but also puts Afghans in danger who have been critical partners in supporting the US.”