The Taliban claimed that the group wouldn’t kill Afghans who served as translators for U.S. forces while menacingly telling interpreters they would have to “show remorse” for “treason against Islam” and not try to seek protection abroad.
Withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan is on pace to be completed by the Sept. 11 target date. About 18,000 Afghans who assisted U.S. forces through interpretation services have applied for resettlement through the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program.
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Brian McKeon told reporters at a May 28 briefing on the State Department’s FY 2022 budget request that the translators are a priority in the SIV program. “Congress provides authorization for a certain number of visas each year. Typically, in the last few years, they’ve provided 4,000 slots,” he said. “We’re asking for 8,000 this year.”
The nonprofit No One Left Behind, which is pushing for acceleration of the State Department’s three-and-a-half-year average wait time for processing an SIV, says it has recorded cases of more than 300 interpreters and family members who were killed because of their association with the United States.
“The local Afghan employees paid a very high price for joining the U.S. as they were threatened to death and lost their goods and lives,” said an open letter from Afghan interpreters to President Biden. “This tragic event is still continuing and is easier now for enemy to attack them as the U.S. has started to withdraw troops.”
In January, an Afghan man known by the pseudonym Mohammad was killed by Taliban while waiting for a visa to take refuge in the United States. He had worked for 12 years for the U.S. Embassy and military in Afghanistan; his wife and six children eventually received humanitarian parole after intense public outcry as they continued to live under threats after the murder.
The plight of the translators and global calls for coalition countries to swiftly relocate them prompted a response from the Taliban in a statement posted on the group’s website Monday.
“As a large number of Afghans were misled during the previous twenty-year occupation period and worked alongside foreign forces as interpreters, guards and under other titles, and now as foreign forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan, these Afghans also seek to flee the country and are fearful,” the Taliban said, adding that they “would like to inform all the above people that they should show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.”
“But none should currently desert the country,” the Taliban added, claiming they “will not perturb them,” but calling on the translators “to return to their normal lives and if they do have expertise in any field, to serve their country. They shall not be in any danger on our part.”
“We viewed them as our foes when they were directly standing in the ranks of our enemies, but when they abandon enemy ranks and opt to live as ordinary Afghans in their homeland, they will not face any issues hence they should not remain fearful and should continue living a serene life in their own country,” the group continued. “However, if they are using ‘danger’ as an excuse to bolster their fake asylum case, then that is their own problem and not that of the Mujahideen of Islamic Emirate.”
For years, Taliban PR has referred to coalition forces as “invaders,” Afghan leaders as “puppets,” and those working in a security aspect as “minions,” and has threatened violence against all while reporting on attacks against these perceived enemies using often inflated reports of casualties or damage.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters late last month that the Defense Department and the State Department were formulating plans to potentially evacuate Afghans who worked for the U.S.
“Their safety could be at risk,” Milley said. “And we recognize that that’s a very important task, is to ensure that we remain faithful to them and that we do what’s necessary to ensure their protection and, if necessary, get them out of the country if that’s what they want to do.”
The Taliban also recently issued a statement lashing out at reports that the U.S. is looking for base locations near Afghanistan in order to continue supporting the country’s government and security.
“We urge neighboring countries not to allow and grant anyone such a concession. God forbid, if such a step is taken once again, it will be a great historic mistake and disgrace that shall forever be inscribed as a dark stain in history,” the group said, adding they “will not remain silent before such heinous and provocative acts” but “fulfill …religious and historical responsibilities in the same way as it has performed throughout history.”