Mohammad Janis Shinwari's warning came scratched on his car. Two countries, two conflicts and one common fate shared by thousands of Iraqis and Afghans such as Shinwari and Hashem: Because they worked with the U. The United States has long been aware of the danger such men put themselves in by helping the Americans. So it created a special visa for them to come to work and live in the USA once their assignment was up. Instead of receiving the visas they have been promised, they have become snared in a bureaucratic tangle that has forced them into hiding while they wait for apporoval.
The U. State Department said it understands the threat faced by local hires who work for the U. But "we need to be sure that those who wish to do us harm are not able to take advantage of the program. The State Department insists it has improved wait times for responses to requests for the special visas. If so, critics say, it is not good enough. Of the 25, visas allocated by law to Iraqis who worked for the U. Of the 8, available for Afghans, fewer than 1, have been granted.
Thousands of these Iraqi and Afghan hires deal with escalating violence in their countries while the visa process, when it works, can take upward of four years. The program for Iraqis expired Sept. The Afghan program expires next September. Johnson was among those who lobbied Congress to establish the special visa programs. When they became law, he said, he was thrilled that America had recognized an obligation to interpreters. Some members of Congress have tried to push the issue, sometimes pressuring State on particular cases, but Congress cannot overrule a process that is the authority of the State Department.
Hashem knew from the beginning that it would be dangerous to work with the Americans.
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But there was little work in Baghdad, and he lacked connections to get the few jobs available, so he decided to respond to the pleas from the U. He was hired as a translator and began working in January He worried about becoming a target for the well-armed Shiite militias that lurked in most Baghdad neighborhoods.
He took precautions. He avoided the five-minute walk to his mother's house from the camp and instead took taxis to distant parts of the city in a roundabout journey home that took three hours but would lose anyone following him. Six months after he started the job, an elderly neighbor who has regular contact with the Shiite militias warned his mother: "We know your son is working with the Americans — your son and your family will be killed. His family left for Jordan a week later. Hashem stayed behind and lived at the camp, where he was safe until April , when he lost his job and needed release papers or a transfer order from the military to work at another unit.
He waited for three weeks, hiding at the homes of friends until he could get out and to Jordan where he waits for the visa he applied for in March He received a preliminary approval a year later to his delight, but the visa was revoked with no explanation in late He blames the arrests in in Kentucky of two Iraqis granted refugee status who were caught trying to send weapons to insurgents in Iraq.
As a result, all Iraqi applicants are under deeper scrutiny, he said. Johnson said he has often hectored U. Zeller, a former CIA intelligence officer and U. Army captain, was serving in Afghanistan in April when his unit came under attack by a group of Taliban fighters in Ghazni province. Afghanistan Add Interest. Jun 26, AM ET. Afghan female leaders urge Trump administration to stand up for their rights in Taliban peace talks Afghan female leaders are urging the Trump administration to do more to stand up for their rights as it engages with the Taliban to end U.
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