Translators, Local Staff for Foreigners Fear Troop Pullout

As US and NATO troops continue withdrawing from Afghanistan, dozens of Afghan workers who have partnered with foreigners over the past 20 years are concerned about the situation and are seeking protection.

Translators and other local employees of the French military forces in Afghanistan at a gathering in Kabul said they are faced with increasing threats from various groups, and they ask the French government to grant them asylum in France immediately.

Concerned about the approach of September 11 – the deadline for all foreign troops to leave Afghanistan – these translators and employees said their lives would face serious threats after all foreign troops including France leave the country.

“I have worked with the French military in Afghanistan for more than ten years, but unfortunately, the French government does not pay any attention to us and we are at risk,” said Ahmad Siyar, a former employee of French forces in Afghanistan. “Granting us an immigration visa to France before the September 11 deadline is what we are demanding,” he said.

Ahmad Yama Heidari, another former employee of French forces in Afghanistan, said: “If they leave us behind, we will all be beheaded like those who faced such an act before.”

The workers say that staying in Afghanistan is like a nightmare for them because they receive constant threats because they worked with coalition forces.

“Most countries have withdrawn their personnel (local staff) from Afghanistan, but France has not yet taken action. We are protesting here because we want to legally migrate to France,” said Maiwand Hotak, a former employee of French forces in Afghanistan.

“I have worked with France’s PCL company for seven years. I came here to ask the government and the Ministry of Defense of France to grant me an immigration visa to France,” said Zubair, a former French forces employee in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, another group of Afghans who have worked with Canadian forces in Afghanistan gathered in front of the Canadian embassy in Kabul and called on the Canadian government and the United Nations to help them find asylum in Western countries as foreign troops, including Canadians, are leaving the country by September 11.

The translators and employees, who were employed by the Canada forces in Afghanistan, said they have been repeatedly threatened with death and will not be able to live in Afghanistan after the complete withdrawal of foreign troops.

“I worked at Camp Julien in Dar-Ul-Aman from 2003 to 2005 and where we were working was such an exposed place that everyone could easily identify us, most people knew where we were working. I have been threatened many times with people saying that ‘if the time comes, we will hold you accountable for what you did in the past,’” said Noor, a former translator with Canadian Forces in Afghanistan.

“In the last 15 years, I did not apply for a visa because the country was partly secure and the situation was not as bad as it is today. Now the threats have increased, our children cannot go to school and we cannot walk around and travel safely,” said Shafiullah, a former translator with Canadian forces in Afghanistan.”

Ehsanullah, another former translator of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, said: “We are about 40 to 50 people in total, we were working at Camp Julien in Kabul. Now that the Canadian and foreign troops are leaving Afghanistan, we want to be moved to Canada.” He said: “Our lives and our families’ lives are in jeopardy.”

Thousands of Afghans have worked with foreign forces in Afghanistan as translators and workers since the coalition forces came to Afghanistan in 2001. The exact number of these locally-employed staff is not available.

Afghan translators and other employees who have worked with foreign forces in Afghanistan have been threatened by various groups for cooperating with these forces. Dozens have lost their lives while hundreds have been wounded.

A number of foreign countries who were operating in Afghanistan for the past 20 years under NATO have provided immigration visas to many of their Afghan local workers to protect them from threats.

Recently, the United States government announced that it would provide special immigrant visas to 18,000 Afghan translators and their families who backed US missions during the past 20 years.