Nearly 13,000 Afghan families who assisted U.S. troops between 2001 and 2014 are waiting for a U.S. visa, The Associated Press reports.
Many interpreted for U.S. soldiers in dangerous areas, and face repeated death threats from the Taliban. Some of the interpreters were even wounded on combat missions with U.S. forces and have been in visa limbo for nearly five years.
“I’m living my days in hell. Even if someone is not really looking at me, I feel so paranoid, like this guy is going to kill me,” a former U.S. interpreter told the AP. Another elaborated, “There’s a lot of other interpreters who were shot, hurt, are crazy disabled, and all of them are stuck in Afghanistan.”
Congress reportedly capped the number of visas available to interpreters at 7,000; the processing time can take years as the applications snake their way through bureaucracy. The security situation in Afghanistan has drastically worsened since the end of the U.S. combat mission in 2014.
The Pentagon’s most recent assessment of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan says the government only definitively controls approximately 70 percent of the country. The Taliban have made unprecedented gains in the fight against the Afghan security forces. The terrorist group inflicted historic casualties on Afghan forces, with estimates at nearly 18 men dying per day. Nine hundred Afghan soldiers were killed in the month of August alone, and recruitment rates likely will not be able to backstop the bleeding.
“If somebody assisted us in the war over there and saved American lives by running convoys so our troops could be doing their jobs, or whatever, and they now have gotten active threats by known Taliban, why even limit it?” one former U.S. soldier said.
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