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'How Can You Be a Muslim? You Work with Americans': An Excerpt From 'The Interpreters'

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The interpreters who worked for American forces during the recent Afghanistan war — and the many still working — are among America’s bravest and most loyal allies. So that you don’t have to take my word for it, I asked several US Marines I’d met in Afghanistan — not the easiest people to impress — to share their thoughts.

“We are quite simply blind without them,” said one. “They played the most important role in any unit operating in today's dangerous and complex combat environment,” said another. None of them had anything but the highest praise. “They put more on the line for our country than the average American ever will.” “They are themselves American veterans.”

As well as translating for American troops attempting to build relationships with Afghans, the interpreters played an essential role educating foreign forces about the local culture they so badly needed to understand. They were also key sources of intelligence, able to keep an ear out not just for information about the Taliban, but also about the Afghan army and police, who sometimes posed as much of a threat as the insurgents they were supposed to be fighting. The interpreters, or “terps” as they became affectionately known, did this for years on end, going out on every patrol and operation with American forces. It’s no exaggeration to say that the interpreters saw far more combat than the vast majority of American veterans.

Most didn’t take the job for money. The only interpreters who were well paid were those who had long ago become American citizens and spoke English fluently. They were sent to Afghanistan for the duration of their contract and could then return straight back to the United States. The Afghan interpreters who still lived in Afghanistan were lucky if they got paid more than $1,000 a month, and faced as much danger on the rare occasions when they went home as they did on the battlefield. They also had the extra burden of putting their families at risk because the Taliban often target interpreters’ relatives too. And as I was repeatedly told, many other Afghans also despise those who worked for the foreign forces, who are considered by many to be “invaders” and “infidels.”

Some interpreters took the job because they were explicitly promised a US visa after at least 12 months’ service. But most took the job because they believed the Taliban would be defeated and their country would be rebuilt. After more than three decades of war, they felt that at last the outside world was coming to help and that they should do all they could to support that process. Of the two dozen or so interpreters I interviewed over five months, and the many more I had gotten to know over the last seven years of covering the war, all said that if they knew how our endeavor would end up — with the Taliban resurgent, rapidly declining security, and a downward-spiraling economy plagued by spectacular levels of corruption in all aspects of daily life — they would not have volunteered. And they certainly wouldn’t have volunteered if they knew they would be abandoned as soon as American forces started heading out the exit door.

......

The program is called the Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, and the interpreters I interviewed who applied have been waiting years to be approved. To be fair, the process has improved recently, but at the time of writing, thousands of interpreters are still waiting for visas that they will never get. This includes the interpreters featured here. Only 3,000 visas were available for this year, but there are an estimated 8,000 applicants (or more) waiting, a number that will grow as withdrawal continues; as of this writing, the State Department has already issued almost all of the available visas. Unless new legislation is introduced, the majority of those applying will not be granted visas and will be left to the mercy of the Taliban.

What follows is the story of those interpreters, told almost entirely in their own words. I have sometimes combined quotations, and changed names and locations to protect those who spoke to me. Any other changes I made were purely grammatical, as English is often the interpreter’s third, fourth, or fifth language.

https://news.vice.com/article/how-can-you-be-a-muslim-you-work-with-americans-an-excerpt-from-the-interpreters

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way too many of them get sucked into that notorious ap blackhole.

Yeah, there are a lot of problems with it, but I have met some who it has helped. The people I met all were stand up guys and had sacrificed, in one case even hiding his wife and kids in another country at great expense, for their safety.


AOS for my husband
8/17/10: INTERVIEW DAY (day 123) APPROVED!!

ROC:
5/23/12: Sent out package
2/06/13: APPROVED!

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Yeah, there are a lot of problems with it, but I have met some who it has helped. The people I met all were stand up guys and had sacrificed, in one case even hiding his wife and kids in another country at great expense, for their safety.

really sad.

No one knows how many interpreters have given up on the SIV process and paid to be smuggled out, but conservative estimates put the overall number of Afghan immigrants at just under 30,000. For many, life is so bad that they decide to go back to Afghanistan. I met one former interpreter named Khaled who was about to do just that, and was hoping to then raise enough money to flee east instead of west, to Pakistan or India, where he believed he had a better chance of a normal life.

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Yep. I do hope that the US makes good on this promise and works it out for everyone.


AOS for my husband
8/17/10: INTERVIEW DAY (day 123) APPROVED!!

ROC:
5/23/12: Sent out package
2/06/13: APPROVED!

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I went to a majority Muslim country this summer. Outside of the few extreme, so many Muslims are so nice and kind it is awesome. I will never let the crazies in the U.S. talk me into hating all Muslims because of their own little, tini, tiny fears.

Edited by Janelle2002

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I went to a majority Muslim country this summer. Outside of the few extreme, so many Muslims are so nice and kind it is awesome. I will never let the crazies in the U.S. talk me into hating all Muslims because of their own little, tini, tiny fears.

Huh? Who is talking you into that?


AOS for my husband
8/17/10: INTERVIEW DAY (day 123) APPROVED!!

ROC:
5/23/12: Sent out package
2/06/13: APPROVED!

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That is such BS. I am sure they are a target in their homeland. It sickens me the way we have always sued the locals them, dumped them when they were no longer needed.

What we did to the Montagnard in Vietnam was horrendous.

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That is such BS. I am sure they are a target in their homeland. It sickens me the way we have always sued the locals them, dumped them when they were no longer needed.

What we did to the Montagnard in Vietnam was horrendous.

They're suing them too? Edited by aaydrian

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