Getting Afghan interpreters out of Afghanistan is not gradual: it’s the right thing to do
For 20 years, we have been trapped in the quagmire of the Afghan war. During all this time, we have relied on hundreds of local Afghan citizens as interpreters to increase our military might.
During my service as a Marine Sergeant, I had two combat deployments in Afghanistan; my platoons each had an Afghan interpreter. These men decided to work for the United States knowing full well that they had signed their own death warrants while working with us. These men not only worked with us, they lived with us, they patrolled with us, and when we came under fire, they stood by our side to provide us with valuable information about the area. These men were sitting in our vehicles with the same risk of roadside bombs that we know every day. When we hit a roadside bomb, they were injured or killed, just like us. These men were in the burrow with us every day.
On the morning of July 27, 2010, my platoon was operating an observation post in Helmand province. One vehicle was on a hill overlooking the town we were tasked with guarding while another conveyed supplies to the observation post. At approximately 11:00 a.m., the supply vehicle made a supply drop and was heading towards our patrol base. Upon their return, their vehicle struck the pressure plate of a roadside 120-pound bomb. Instantly, the 15-ton vehicle was tossed into the air like a child’s toy, overturning and landing on its right side.
Driver Lance Cpl. Shane Martin was killed instantly. The platoon commander had a broken pelvis; the shooter received a massive concussion and 10 stitches in the forehead after hitting the sight; the rear scout was launched from the vehicle 15 feet away and landed unconscious in the dirt, and our performer “Carlos” bounced off the walls at the rear of the vehicle like a pinball machine.
As soon as the vehicle landed, Carlos got out of the vehicle, picked up an M4 rifle and got into a defensive position to take cover while we picked up the wounded. Our interpreter, an Afghan citizen, defended our vehicle and assisted the response Marines with whatever we needed to do to secure the scene and the landing zone for the medical evacuation.
His bravery did not end there.
The most heroic thing Carlos ever did was ask to come back to our platoon and continue the mission, instead of returning home after being cleared to take up duty.
During their years of service with us, Afghan interpreters have risked their lives on a daily basis. Meanwhile, our soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen finally left the country for the safety of the United States, while the Afghan interpreters remained in the country under constant death threats.
To date, more than 300 interpreters have been killed since 2014 for serving alongside our forces.
While I am relieved to hear that the United States has made a commitment to evacuate the Afghan interpreters and translators who served alongside our military during our 20-year war in Afghanistan, we still need to do everything we can. our power to move them as quickly as possible.
Since 2014, the State Department has implemented a 14-step program that interpreters can follow to obtain a special immigrant visa. However, during this period, he accumulated a backlog of 18,000 people who wait an average of two years before being interviewed. This process involves multiple background checks, interviews, and very strict prerequisites that interpreters must meet before they can even begin the process.
Our top priority should be to get rid of this bureaucracy as quickly as possible while keeping the Afghans who have done so much for us in a safe place while their claims are processed.
After all they have done for us, it is the least we can do for them.
These interpreters didn’t just âdo a jobâ for the United States. They have joined us in everything we have done. They were ready to give their lives with us. It is imperative that all 18,000 SIV applicants be evacuated as a matter of priority from their hostile home country to a safe place while they wait.
We cannot allow our allies to stay in Afghanistan while the Taliban regain control. Helping these people get to the United States where they will be safe is not conservative, it is not progressive – it is simply the right thing to do.
United States Marine Corps veteran Michael Wendt is a five-time combat veteran and Purple Heart recipient with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.