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Thousands of Afghans who worked for US troops now face Taliban’s death trap, US govt announces Operation Allies Refuge

Recently, the US State Department has announced that in the initial phase, as many as 2500 Afghan citizens will be flown in as a part of 'Operation Allies Refuge' and will be housed at Fort Lee, Virginia till their visa formalities are completed.

Sohail Pardis, an Afghan translator for the US army, was beheaded by the Taliban terrorists in Kabul on May 12. The Taliban terrorists had later in June assured that they would not harm the people working alongside the foreign forces. 

As per a CNN report, Pardis on his way back home for Eid celebrations was driving, when his vehicle was blocked at a checkpoint by the Taliban.

As he approached the checkpoint, he accelerated to speed through but the Taliban shot at his car. The vehicle swerved and stopped and Padris was pulled out of the car by the terrorists. Villagers who witnessed the incident revealed that Padris was instantly beheaded.

As per the CNN report, just days before the incident, Padris had informed his friends that he was receiving death threats from the Taliban. They had discovered that Padris had worked as a translator for the United States Army for 16 months during the 20-year-long conflict.

“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,” said his friend and co-worker Abdulhaq Ayoubi to CNN.

Afghans feel the US abandoned them

After the US pulled itself out of the war zone, the Afghans say they have been left in a death trap. 

Pardis’s incident has put the other Afghans who worked for the US troops in fear. As many as 18,000 Afghans who worked for the US military in various roles have applied for a Special Immigrant Visa program that would enable them to take refuge in the United States.

However, the number of these people is not restricted to just 18,000 and not all will be accepted by the US, as per reports. Several of these interpreters and translators have been abandoned and rejected by the US owing to their faulty military tests and security checks. 

Several translators in an interview with CNN revealed that the Afghan workers had to undergo polygraph tests for getting security clearance before working at the US bases in Afghanistan. The same polygraph tests which the workers term unreliable were also used as part of the screening process to apply for the visa. 

However, hundreds of translators were ripped off their work and denied the Special Immigration Visa (SIV) for failing the test.

One such example is of Abdul Rashid Shirzad who served for five years as a linguist working alongside America’s military elite, translating for US Special Forces. He even produced photographs of his time on missions in the Kejran Valley in Uruzgan province working with the US Navy’s SEAL Team 10. 

However, Shirzad believes his service has been repaid with a death sentence. The US government rejected his Special Immigrant Visa, making him a potential target for the Taliban. 

His visa rejection letter from the US Embassy simply said “lack of faithful and valuable service” despite having letters of appreciation by the US military for his service. 

“If they catch me they’re going to kill me, kill my kids and my wife too. It’s payback time for them you know,” he said. Shirzad can no longer go back to his home province and keeps moving locations with his family every month, the CNN report revealed.

Another translator Ayazuddin Hilal in an interview with ABC News narrated how they have been receiving death threats from the Taliban. “Your brothers have left. Now we will kill you,” said Hilal quoting the threat he received from the terrorists. 

ABC’s report on Afghani translators who worked for the US Military

Criticizing the slow and complicated process to get SIV, Hilal said that his application has been rejected four times as death looms over. 

At least 300 Afghan interpreters have been killed since 2016 by the Taliban, as per reports.

Pardis’ friend and co-worker Ayoubi also informed that he failed a polygraph test and was terminated despite being awarded a medal for helping to save an American sergeant who had stepped on a bomb.

“I thought we would have a beautiful Afghanistan. We never thought of this situation like now,” he remarked. 

US says they are vetting visas 

“We have long said we are committed to supporting those who have helped US military and other government personnel perform their duties, often at great personal risk to themselves and their families,” said a US spokesperson negating the claims of the Afghans. 

As per the report, the vetting process for visas is lengthy and complex. Every applicant is re-assessed on whether they pose a risk to the national security of the US.

Assessing the risk, the White House on July 14 said that it was launching, “Operation Allies Refuge,” an effort to relocate the thousands of Afghan interpreters and translators who worked for the US considering lives are now at risk. 

 White House press secretary Jen Psaki in a briefing had said, “The evacuation will begin in the last week of July for Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants.”

US President Joe Biden on July 8 assured to rescue Afghan interpreters and their families who had worked alongside American troops in Afghanistan. “Our message to those women and men is clear: There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose and we will stand with you, just as you stood with us,” he said.

Recently, the US Defense Department has announced that in the initial phase, as many as 2500 Afghan citizens will be flown in as a part of ‘Operation Allies Refuge’ and will be housed at Fort Lee, Virginia till their visa formalities are completed.

“At Fort Lee, the Army will provide food and housing for both individuals and families. The Army will also provide medical care if it is needed”, a US Defense statement has said.

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OpIndia Staffhttps://www.opindia.com
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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