There’s no doubt that the United States put itself and its people in a difficult position when it opted to send the military into Afghanistan and Iraq. However, the military personnel stationed there know they have a job to do and they have surely tried to carry out their missions as best as they can. Although how can they do what they need to do without being able to communicate with the locals there? The answer is: Probably not very well.
For that reason, the United States has relied extensively on local interpreters to help the military navigate life on the ground. But the fact is that local interpreters don’t have it so easy. When they’re working with the U.S. units in the field, the interpreters are put in harm’s way just like the American soldiers. On top of that, the Taliban and Al Qaeda brand them as traitors and target them, which puts the interpreters in another line of fire. Former Afghan interpreter Janis Shinwari received death threats from the Taliban as a result of his services. In fact, a number of locals have been beheaded because of their cooperation with the U.S.
Why would any local Afghan or Iraqi want to sign up for that? To recruit interpreters, the United States promised them visas to the U.S. when the war ended. The problem is that some are not finding their visas approved and others are being killed in the meantime. While there is a special federal program with a certain number of visas earmarked for former interpreters each year, the process takes several years and approval is not guaranteed. It doesn’t seem like a very fitting reward for the interpreters who risked their lives to help American troops.