Why are interpreters so important in Afghanistan?

 In English

The planned withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan before September 11, 2021 heightened fears that the Taliban would target interpreters, translators who perform consecutive interpretations, embassy staff and other Afghan assistants of foreign forces. The United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries must urgently accelerate visa processing and relocation efforts.

Most American soldiers who served in Afghanistan support granting asylum to loyal Afghan translators who have taken all necessary security measures and are seeking this emergency asylum.

An interpreter’s job in Afghanistan is much more than just translating

What is it like to be an interpreter in the middle of a war? Have you ever thought about how many of these translators need to be on the battlefield, on the front lines? So, a translator´s job in Afghanistan is much more than just translating the language. Many end up taking up arms and fighting alongside the Americans.

The translators helped to better understand the people, the location and the situation when carrying out consecutive interpretations. They know the locations, customs and are fundamental for the missions to be successful. After all, most of their work entails contact with local residents in the search for relevant information. In other words, they are strategic and very important professionals when providing their translation service.

For this reason as well, now with the exit of the American army, translators have become prime targets of the Taliban in search of information and retaliation. When captured, all are sentenced to death for treason.

Difficulties with getting a visa

Over 17,000 Afghans who worked with US forces, not to mention their families, are still waiting for a decision from the US Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The process is mired in bureaucracy. Many have waited years after passing security checks at virtually every US government agency imaginable, usually paying for health checks and other requirements out of their own pocket.

The situation has only become more dire lately with the US Embassy in Kabul interrupting interviews with visa applicants due to the escalation of a COVID-19 outbreak in Afghanistan.

Not only is granting asylum the right thing to do, but it also benefits the United States by accepting the talented and hardworking translators, many of whom have already risked everything for the country.

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