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Local Interpreters Warn Of Disaster As US Pulls Out Of Afghanistan

An American lieutenant, center, meets with villagers in Afghanistan's Kunar p...

Photo by David Guttenfelder AP

Above: An American lieutenant, center, meets with villagers in Afghanistan's Kunar province in 2009, assisted by an interpreter, sitting to his right wearing a baseball cap. The U.S. will begin the evacuation of some 18,000 Afghan nationals who aided military operations, along with their families, in late July.

The U.S. State Department has not released the plan for how it will process the Afghans who have already applied for a Special Immigration Visa, though more details are emerging this week.

Rahmat Mokhtar immigrated from Afghanistan to San Diego in 2016 with his wife. An interpreter who worked with the Marines, he’s watching nervously as the U.S. pulls out without announcing a final plan for thousands of Afghan citizens who worked with the U.S.

Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.

“The system itself is not working. It’s just a crippled system," Mokhtar said. "I’m happy for the people who are coming to Fort Lee.”

RELATED: Afghans Who Helped US Troops Say They're Running Out Of Time As They Await Visas

Mokhtar's extended family, including his parents and nine siblings, are still in Afghanistan. Some of his relatives have received letters saying they are Taliban officials, who are demanding they pay a special religious tax.

The Pentagon announced this week that 2,500 people will be housed at Fort Lee Virginia, while they complete the final stages of the naturalization process. It’s a fraction of the 20,000 people who have applied to emigrate to the U.S., as part of the SIV program. There are at least 70,000 to 100,000 people waiting in line, including thousands of family members.

RELATED: Afghan War Still Alive For San Diego Family

“I am afraid that you will see in months and years, that you will see people are being hanged out there and tortured or killed because of their association with the U.S. military,” Mokhtar said.

The U.S. has targeted the end of the month to pull its forces from Afghanistan. The Biden administration has said they will relocate the people who have applied under the SIV program to a third country, possibly Guam, while they go through the process.

Mokhtar says the number of people who have applied is still a fraction of the Afghans who may be targeted in the coming years. The people being brought into Fort Lee are only expected to stay for a few days, before resettling in the U.S.

Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby says the Department of Defense is opening to housing others if requested of the State Department, potentially at other sites around the country.

Local Interpreters Warn Of Disaster In Afghanistan

Reported by Steve Walsh


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Photo of Steve Walsh

Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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