Afghans Without Visas Are Being Abandoned After Helping the U.S.

March 11th 2017

Willie Burnley Jr.

By June 1st, it is expected that the United States will run out of special immigrant visas for Afghans who helped support the U.S. military and other agencies in Afghanistan in roles such as translators and drivers, according to the State Department.

The State Department has already stopped holding interviews for eligible applicants, which include the children and spouses of individuals who worked for the U.S.

Many Afghans who have helped American troops or other government workers have since found themselves targeted by the Taliban. The failure to be able to either protect them may serve as a psychological tool to discourage other Afghans from cooperating with or assisting the U.S.

Congress approved 1,500 visas for Afghans in December as a part of the National Defense Reauthorization Act to keep the program alive after it nearly ran out in 2016 and President Obama urged the legislative branch to approve thousands more. It is unclear whether more will be approved — it's estimated that it adding more special immigrant visas would cost $446 million.

Many consider the end of this program treachery to the Afghans who helped the U.S. and were promised safety and security in exchange.

Scott Cooper, founder of Veterans for American Ideals said, “This is a betrayal of the brave men and women who stood by the side of U.S. armed forces in the face of great personal risk."

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Sen. John McCain fought for the program to continue and Shaheen has recently expressed her concerns in a statement, also promising to introduce legislation that would approve more visas.

"It is no exaggeration to say that this is a matter of life and death as Afghans who served the U.S. mission continue to be systematically hunted down by the Taliban. The number of visas needed for those in danger far surpasses what's provided in this bill."

Last month a U.S. commander called for more troops in Afghanistan, meaning that continued cooperation between locals and the U.S. military is imminent and the U.S. will certainly rely on the Afghan people in future operations.