The United States' war effort in Afghanistan is to wind down this year, leaving a multitude of unanswered questions and plenty of loose ends. But the United States must not leave any ambiguity about the fate of the interpreters who aided U.S. forces over the past 13 years. Congress has approved a special immigrant visa program for those who courageously served as the eyes and ears of the troops, but problems remain.
The point of the program and a parallel effort in Iraq is to provide visas to resettle in the United States for interpreters who have faced threats or face them now because of their association with the troops. The Afghan program, approved in 2009 for five years, expires this year. The recently enacted defense authorization law extended the program in Iraq but not for Afghanistan. This should be among the first orders of business when Congress reconvenes.
There are thousands of interpreters and family members waiting. According to the State Department, some 5,000 applicants are already at various stages of the process. Not all may be approved, but, as bases close, more applications may come.