The evacuation of US interpreters from Afghanistan

On Friday morning, an airliner landed in Washington with about 200 Afghan people who in recent years had collaborated with the United States army in Afghanistan, providing logistical support and acting as interpreters with the local population. It is the first aircraft of this type and many more should follow, because Joe Biden’s US administration has decided to evacuate hundreds and perhaps thousands of Afghan Army collaborators after their withdrawal from the country to avoid retaliation.

The evacuation comes at a time when the extremist Islamist group of the Taliban is regaining control of various parts of Afghanistan, now that the withdrawal of the US military is almost complete: in theory the soldiers should leave Afghanistan by. September 11, but most of the men and means have already been taken away.

The administration of US President Joe Biden has decided to evacuate the interpreters and other Afghan collaborators and their families to allow them to move to the United States and escape possible retaliation by the Taliban when the American soldiers have finally left. Afghanistan. In all, according to the White House, the Afghans who have collaborated with the United States over the years and who have requested to be evacuated are about 20,000 (a figure to which their family members must be added: in all, there are about 100,000 people). .

It is very difficult, however, that all of these people will manage to be evacuated to the United States, and there is a risk that some of them will remain in Afghanistan, exposed to danger, in part due to a suitably rigorous selection and evacuation process. but also complicated and confusing.

The interpreters and collaborators whose application has already been accepted and who will receive a special visa to live in the United States are 2,500, of which 700 are collaborators and interpreters and the rest are their families. They will join the approximately 74,000 Afghans who have already moved to the United States since 2008, on the basis of a special program introduced by the Barack Obama administration.

According to a document obtained by Associated Press, on the flight that landed on Friday morning there were 221 Afghans, including 57 children and 15 infants. President Joe Biden commented on their arrival saying that the United States “is keeping its promise to the thousands of Afghan citizens who have worked shoulder to shoulder with US troops and diplomats over the past 20 years in Afghanistan.” Biden also thanked «these brave Afghans for having been at the side of the United States, today I am proud to tell them: ‘Welcome home’».

The evacuation operations are taking place with great caution on the part of the United States, which is trying to maintain the anonymity of the people involved. Charlotte Bellis, correspondent of Al Jazeera in the capital Kabul, he said that the US embassy was “very confidential” about how the evacuation took place on Friday morning: «They told us that they are incredibly concerned about the safety and privacy of these interpreters. They fear that if any information about who they are and how they are leaving the country were leaked, these people would be put in danger.

The danger comes from the Taliban, who in recent months, due to the progressive withdrawal of the US army and the weakness of the Afghan police and army, have led a great advance that has allowed them to recapture different areas of the country (in some cases without firing not even a shot, but taking advantage of the escape of the demoralized soldiers of the Afghan army). The Taliban have officially declared that the people who have collaborated with the United States and its allies have nothing to fear and that there will be no retaliation against them, but many believe that this will not be the case.

Wartime Allies, an association that helps interpreters in war zones, estimates that about half of the people who requested evacuation live outside Kabul, in areas where many roads are controlled by Taliban checkpoints. A former US Army soldier who now works for the association told al Washington Post that it will be nearly impossible for these people to be able to leave Afghanistan by now, and that the Biden administration should have been preparing for the evacuation as early as January, when the Taliban had not yet recaptured much of the country. “The reality is that some of these people will die. Why didn’t the US military evacuate them when it had a chance to do so? ”He said.

Several people who have requested to be evacuated said that the operation so far has been organized in a confusing way, leaving many of them in a situation of limbo, waiting to know if and when they will be able to leave the country. A former interpreter, who said he collaborated with the United States for eight years in Kandahar, anonymously told the Washington Post that you have been advised to prepare your passport to leave, but have not received any information since. A similar situation was told by other people to Al Jazeera: some said they made the request three years ago, and still don’t know if they will be evacuated.

– Read also: The Taliban are taking back Afghanistan

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