The White House said Wednesday it’s doing ‘extensive planning for potential evacuation’ of Afghans who have worked as translators, drivers, cooks and in other positions helping the U.S. war effort.
More than 18,000 are stuck trying to apply for Special Immigrant Visas, with the U.S.’s involvement in Afghanistan ending in 80 days. If left in Afghanistan, those allied with the U.S. could be murdered by the Taliban.
‘These are individuals who have played an incredibly courageous role in helping the United States at various times over the course of our recent history,’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Wednesday. ‘We are processing and getting people out at a record pace.’
‘We are working with Congress right now to streamline some of the requirements that slow this process down and we’re doing the kind of extensive planning for potential evacuation should that become necessary,’ Psaki continued.
‘So we’re continuing to evaluate what are options are there, continuing to take steps foward and certainly we want to take every step we can take from the federal government to treat all these courageous individuals as they deserve,’ she added.
Psaki also confirmed that the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks remains the Afghanistan drawdown deadline.
‘I would say I don’t anticipate, the timeline for withdrawal is not going to change, by September, which of course is overseen by our Department of Defense,’ she said during Wednesday’s press briefing.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the U.S. government is doing ‘extensive planning for potential evacuation’ of the 18,000 Afghans stuck in the visa process who have aided the U.S. war effort
When President Joe Biden withdraws the final American troops from Afghanistan, up to 18,000 who risked their lives for the US could be left behind. These are the Afghan translators and interpreters who have worked alongside all military branches and against the insurgents for the last 20 years throughout America’s longest war. One is pictured in Afghanistan with US troops
Afghans applying for the visas are are under constant fear of deadly attacks from the Taliban and have been run out of their homes, with their families of young children, because of their support for the American government.
These are the Afghan translators and interpreters who have worked alongside all U.S. military branches and against the insurgents for the last 20 years throughout America’s longest war.
They have served with the CIA, the State Department, the Army and the Marines on the frontlines in one of the most dangerous battle zones in the world – but have been left in limbo by the slow process to get accepted for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV).
They are the cooks, drivers and cultural advisors who were essential in supporting ground operations – even though they knew siding with American military would put their livelihoods in imminent danger.
Now, they are stranded and begging for visas to let them escape the hell they face, with just 80 days until all troops are gone.
They are all under threat, and when the U.S. ends its military presence on September 11, they will be even more exposed to the violence of the Taliban, who have grown increasingly aggressive since Biden announced he was pulling out U.S. forces.
Many have already seen relatives killed and others fear they will be decapitated. They are now reaching out to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to give them safe haven in the United States.
All linguists are in a very bad situation. If the Taliban or Sisi see us, they will cut our heads from our bodies. Help us please
Visa application from one of the 18,000 stranded Afghan translators as the US withdraws forces
Some have been waiting years to have their application approved, with the longest dating back to 1981, according to No One Left Behind, the non-profit charity fighting to make sure the U.S. government keeps their promise to those who supported the military during some of the most intense fighting in Helmand Province.
The organization says 300 Afghan interpreters have been killed in targeted attacks while waiting to secure their visas since 2014, but the exact numbers are unknown.
The process should take nine months, but has been hampered by a myriad of setbacks including the pandemic and the need for translators to get paperwork.
SIVs are available to those who have helped the U.S. military and now face serious threats as a result of their employment.
The U.S. has handed out 50 special visas per year to be issued to Afghan and Iraqi interpreters and translators.
There have also been 26,500 visas allocated to Afghans employed by the government since December 2014, but the process for those who haven’t had their applications accepted is slow.
It has been delayed even further by the pandemic and the State Department’s administrative backlogs, and time is running out with Biden looking to pull all troops out by September 11, 2021.
On Sunday, the Kabul embassy suspended all visa operations because of a third wave of COVID that is sweeping the country. This is after embassy, like most other U.S. outposts around the world, that has severely limited appointments because of pandemic restrictions.
There is also a staff shortage that is hampering the speed of which these applications are handled.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has said half of the 18,000 SIV applicants waiting for approval are in the early stages of the application and require more paperwork. He is also considering bringing the Afghans into the U.S. as refugees.
But many are stuck. They require supporting documents from their supervisors in the military. Sometimes they have no means of contacting them, simply because they don’t know their personal email addresses.
The translators who served alongside Americans are stranded and begging for visas to let them escape the hell they face, with just 80 days until all troops are gone. They are all under threat, and when the US ends its military presence on September 11, they will be even more exposed to the violence of the Taliban, who have grown increasingly violent since Biden announced he was pulling out US forces
Around 300 Afghan interpreters are believed to have been killed in targeted attacks while waiting to secure their visas since 2014, but the exact numbers are unknown. Their faces have been blurred to protect their identity because of Taliban threats
They also need evidence that shows they worked for the U.S. government for two years.
According to a database held by No One Left Behind, the Afghan applicants have taken to pleading to Biden and Harris.
In their applications they detail the threats they face and beg for the process to be sped up. Some insist they still support the American and hope for better lives if they are welcomed into the U.S., but believe they have betrayed by the bureaucratic logjam.
There is now a bipartisan push to pressure the State Department into accelerating the process as the Pentagon quickly pulls troops out.
The date of full withdrawal is September 11, but many have already left and operations are rapidly drawing to a close.
If we abandon them, we are signing their death warrants.
– Republican Rep. Michael McCaul
The U.S. has said it will maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul, which could help the visa applications, but the lack of troops will mean the translators aren’t protected.
Rep. Michael Waltz told DailyMail.com: ‘Afghan translators have been vital American partners on the ground and their lives are in danger if we can’t get them out soon.
‘The military has testified that they are ready to evacuate but the Biden Administration must make it a priority to green light their extraction.
‘I can’t emphasize how detrimental it would be to our national security interests if we signaled to the rest of the world that we are willing to leave those who help us against the enemy behind to die.’
Sen. Angus King, an Independent from Maine, told reporters last week that Biden’s hair ‘should be on fire’ over the Afghans he is leaving behind.
‘I want the White House’s hair on fire. I want them to do everything within their power to solve this problem….I’m not being critical of the administration, but I think it’s time to step up their game,’ King said.
‘Much of what’s needed could be done by the administration. It can’t be business as usual.’
Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs said earlier this month: ‘[The Afghan interpreters] have a bull’s eye and a target on their back from the moment we leave the country.
‘If we abandon them, we are signing their death warrants.’
James Miervaldis, from the Board of Directors of No One Left Behind, told DailyMail.com: ‘We received over 1,200 signatures from SIV applicants complete with NVC case numbers, the amount of time they have been waiting, and personal statements to President Biden.
They have worked for the CIA, the State Department, the Army and the Marines on the frontlines in one of the most dangerous battlezones in the world – but have been left in limbo by the slow process to get accepted for a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV)
A State Department spokesperson told DailyMail.com they are constantly working to improve the SXIV program while ensuring the integrity of the program and safeguarding national security
75 percent of applicants would still work with the U.S. knowing what they know now about how they’ve been treated. Twenty-five percent regret they worked with U.S. troops.
Sergeant William Bee, the Marine behind one of the most iconic photos from the War On Terror, told DailyMail.com that getting the translators out safely would be the ‘best thing to come out of all of it’.
‘I have been waiting 14 years and I am still waiting to get my visa. The guys running the SIV program are not working as much as they should. I wish you were in my position, so they could feel what I am. Then you would have to run the system like hell to save us
Afghan translator applying for an immigrant visa
He worked frequently with translators during his tours in Helmand Province and believes the Biden administration desperately needs to help the Afghan people who served America.
A State Department spokesperson told DailyMail.com they are constantly working to improve the SIV program while ensuring the integrity of the program and safeguarding national security.
‘Approximately 30 percent of applications are awaiting a decision at the Chief of Mission stage. The final 20 percent were approved by the Chief of Mission and are moving through the immigration process, either in the petition or visa processing stages,’ the spokesperson said.
They said 9,000 of the applicants need to ‘take action’ before the U.S. government can being processing their cases.
They have also identified ways to try and improve the program, such as using staff in Washington to process the applications.
‘The Department also approved a temporary increase in consular staffing at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to conduct interviews and process visa applications, which allowed the Embassy to address cases that were delayed due to COVID-19 related closures earlier this year.’
However they mentioned that the COVID outbreak in Afghanistan has stifled their attempts.
‘We acknowledge and regret the inconvenience to applicants as we seek to protect the health of our staff and applicants to ensure we can fully support visa and other consular services going forward,’ the spokesperson said.
‘We are continuing to make every effort to move SIV applicants through the process quickly. Most applicants are pending completion of much earlier steps in the SIV process and are not yet ready for an interview.’
In the past year, the USAID has provided more than $39million to directly help Afghanistan respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, expedited $90million in other COVID-related development assistance through the World Bank, and reoriented other U.S. assistance to support Afghan efforts to deal with the pandemic’s consequences.
‘If the Taliban see us they will cut off our heads’: The pleas of stranded Afghan translators to the Biden administration
Below are some of the requests in SIV applications from Afghan translators and interpreters. They detail their threats, some simply say ‘help’ and others reach out directly to the White House in hopes of staying alive. Some of the passages have been paraphrased. None have been identified because of the ongoing safety concerns they face in Afghanistan.
‘SIV is our last hope of staying alive.’
‘I have served for more than two years as an interpreter/translator and more than seven years on the USAID funded projects in Afghanistan. My visa is pending administrative processing for no reason besides waiting for my recommendation letter.’
‘I did my medical on September 16, 2020 , but am still waiting for issues to be resolved.’
‘The embassy has cancelled my application for (unfaithful services), a general term they are putting for thousands of translators to cancel their petitions. Contrary to the fact that we risked our lives, our entire family and could have been killed.’
‘I have worked with oil companies as an supervisor also worked with US army and coalition forces as an translator.
‘I applied for SIV in August 2014. I was finally down to my interview at the Kabul US Embassy September 2018. Then the Console Section gave me a yellow card and told me to bring a new recommendation from my supervisor. I haven’t been able to find him in two years because his email is not working and I don’t have his personal email address. My family is in trouble. I am still receiving threats from ISIS and the Taliban. I don’t know where I can go or or to whom I can tell my problems.’
‘Kindly pass our message on that we have suffered a lot for American soldiers. We have worked with them honestly for a bright future. Now we have been left behind, and no excuses have been given.’
‘Me and my family are living under serious threat in Afghanistan.’
‘I want to speed up our case. We are still living in fear and we have been waiting for asylum into the US for so long.’
‘I have been waiting for my visa since 2016. I started working for the US Special Forces in 2009 until 2013.Then our program closed in 205. Since then I have been working with US ASS Mentors at COB Morehead in Kabul. I am still an interpreter, and as you know we are at risk of threat and violence in Afghanistan. It’s very hard to live any more because of my work for the US government. Please save my life, my two children and my wife.’
‘In April 2020, the State Department Consular section in Baghdad refused my SIV case. It seems loyalty to U.S. goals are not appreciated, just like 100s of American soldiers who returned home and were not taken care of. No surprise at all.’
‘I have been waiting for my SIV case to process for four years. More than four of my close friends have lost their lives. After our work with the US, we have put the lives of our family members in great danger and the future for us is uncertain.’
‘Please save our lives. We risked our lives for your forces.
‘We have given our time, our life, and our integrity. Please expedite the process.’
‘I worked with US special forces as interpreter, but I have still been left behind.’
‘My life is really in danger due to working with US forces in Afghanistan. I have been followed by the Taliban. My house is under the threat of attack. I applied for an SIV when I got married. My daughter is five and my son is two, and I am still waiting for an interview.’
‘I have been waiting 14 years and I am still waiting to get my visa. The guys running the SIV program are not working as much as they should. I wish you were in my position, so they could feel what I am. Then you would have to run the system like hell to save us. Thank you.’
‘All linguists are in a very bad situation. If the Taliban or Sisi see us, they will cut our heads from our bodies. Help us please.’
‘Please resume interviews at the US Embassy in Kabul.’
‘We interpreters need your consideration for speeding up the process because our security is getting worse by the day.’
‘Mr. President, every day in Kabul is deadly, and we can not live in our villages. We are very happy that you were elected. These are the real values of the United States. We want an executive order to move all barriers of employment.’
‘President Biden, we hope we can see changes in the SIV program and an easier way to facilitate the process, especially for the ones who been waiting for years.’
‘I have been attacked couple times. The first attack was by ISIL, but, I managed to flee. The second attack was an IED at my house door. It exploded and destroyed most of my home, but God saved me. Since then I flee from one place to another.
‘Mr. Biden please help me.’
‘Everybody knows that here in Afghanistan the conditions are getting worse day by day, so we are humbly requesting from the new elected US president Joe Biden and vice president Harris to speed up our all SIV applicant’s cases.’
‘The Taliban killed my brother while working with Chemonics in Helmand in 2005. They have been treating me since then, but I could not go my village in Paktia from 2006. But I do not know why my application has been rejected where I had worked with the USAID.
‘I know that president-elect Biden and Vice president- elect Harris have the kind of personalities that believe ‘nothing makes them happier than making someone else happy, especially for those who really needs help and assistant’. The kindness we put out into the world always finds a way of coming back to us.’
‘I request to the respected President-Elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Harris to keep our families safe.’
‘Mr. Biden. For more than eight years I have been employee on behalf of the US government here in Afghanistan. I have been known as US government supporter in the region and I have suffered several threats as a result. My US supervisor recommended me for the SIV program, but all his contacts are off. I don’t know whether my supervisor is alive or not, but one thing is clear is that we have truly supported and helped the U.S. government. Every moment for us we live under threat. Please resolve the issue or me and my family will be killed one day.’
‘I’ve been waiting all these years. I wish President Biden would make my dreams come true.’
An Afghan interpreter is seen on patrol with US troops in Helmand Province. They have been essential troops for the last 20 years
Many Afghan translators are stuck. They require supporting documents from their supervisors in the military. Sometimes they have no means of contacting them, simply because they don’t know their personal email addresses
A State Department spokesperson told DailyMail.com they are constantly working to improve the SIV program while ensuring the integrity of the program and safeguarding national security
The US has said it will maintain a diplomatic presence in Kabul, which could help the visa applications, but the lack of troops will mean the translators are left to fend for themselves
75 percent of SIV applicants would still work with the U.S. knowing what they know now about how they’ve been treated. 25% regret they worked with U.S. troops.
Sergeant William Bee, the Marine behind one of the most iconic photos from the War On Terror, told DailyMail.com that getting the translators out safely would be the ‘best thing to come out of all of it’