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Marine Who Served in Afghanistan Says U.S. Should Fulfill Promise, Protect Afghan Translators

Newsweek logo Newsweek 7/24/2021 Jason Lemon
a large building: Thousands of Afghans who worked as interpreters and translators for the American military are seeking visas to the U.S. as they fear retribution from the Taliban. In this photograph taken on April 29, a general view shows a vacated U.S. military base at Kandahar International Airport. © JAVED TANVEER/AFP via Getty Images Thousands of Afghans who worked as interpreters and translators for the American military are seeking visas to the U.S. as they fear retribution from the Taliban. In this photograph taken on April 29, a general view shows a vacated U.S. military base at Kandahar International Airport.

A Marine who served in Afghanistan is speaking out in favor of the thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters who are desperately seeking visas to the United States—fearing for their lives as the Taliban retakes large swaths of the South Asian nation amid the ongoing withdrawal of American troops.

Some 18,000 Afghans who worked for the U.S. military as translators, interpreters and in other roles have thus far applied for visas to relocate to the U.S. While the White House and the Department of Defense have taken significant steps to evacuate many of these individuals and their families, many of their fates' remain in limbo—as the Taliban's dominance within the country steadily increases.

"They saved lives," Travis Horr, a Marine residing in Washington D.C. who served in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, told CBS affiliate WUSA 9. "America should fulfill our end of the promise and make sure these people are safe."

Horr said that the translators were "integral" to the work the military did in the country. "They were also our cultural advisor to the Afghan locals. They really had the institutional knowledge of the previous units that we replaced in Afghanistan and told us about all the different interactions with tribal leaders or rivalries they might have to give us some more context," he said.

In late February 2020, the administration of former President Donald Trump signed a peace agreement with the Taliban, which called for the full withdrawal of U.S. troops in 2021. After President Joe Biden took office, he also committed to withdrawing all U.S. forces from the country and bringing an end to America's longest-ever war. However, he extended the deadline by several months and the withdrawal is now scheduled to end by August 31.

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Meanwhile, the Taliban has begun to take control of more and more of the country. The U.S.-backed government in Kabul has been largely unsuccessful at stopping the militant group's advance. Some regional analysts fear the government in Kabul could fall within six months after the withdrawal is complete. As a result, Afghans who worked for and supported the U.S. efforts in their country fear for their safety.


Video: Biden: US military mission in Afghanistan will end August 31 (USA TODAY)

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CNN reported on Friday about the fate of one former translator for the U.S. Army. Sohali Pardis, 32, was reportedly stopped at a Taliban checkpoint and beheaded as he drove to pick up his sister some five hours from Kabul to celebrate Eid at the end of Ramadan.

"They were telling him you are a spy for the Americans, you are the eyes of the Americans and you are infidel, and we will kill you and your family," Abdulhaq Ayoubi, a friend and co-worker of Pardis, told the news network.

Some 2,500 translators and their families will be brought to the U.S. Army Garrison in Fort Lee, Virginia, where they will be temporarily housed. Thousands more will likely be relocated to other countries that have agreed to offer them a safe place to live as the U.S. continues to process their visa applications.

MSNBC reported that Biden has set aside $100 million to assist with the evacuation effort.

John Kirby, a spokesperson for the Department of Defense, said on Wednesday that the Pentagon "is considering options" on where to relocate the thousands of Afghans.

"We're still examining possibilities for overseas locations to include some departmental installations that would be capable of supporting planned relocation efforts with appropriate temporary residences and supporting infrastructure," Kirby said, according to CNN.

Newsweek reached out to the State Department for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.

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