Afghan Helpers Left Behind
The long overdue withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan raises urgent questions about the fate of the Afghan interpreters, engineers, and other contractors who assisted U.S. troops during the last two decades: Will we invite them into the country they risked their lives to help, or leave them to the Taliban?
In 2006, Congress established an immigration pathway called the special immigrant visa (SIV) to get these helpers out of harm’s way. But even Afghans with the highest commendations may be disqualified thanks to stringent requirements and human errors. Slow processing of the 14-step SIV application has led to an average wait time of three years and a backlog of roughly 18,000 primary applicants with 52,000 dependent family members.
Saberi—first name omitted for his safety—served as an interpreter with a U.S. private contractor for two years doing reconstruction and relief work. He applied for an SIV in 2014 after receiving death threats from the Taliban and other hostile p
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