KABUL (REUTERS) - Dozens of Afghan former interpreters who aided American and Nato troops held a demonstration in Kabul on Friday (June 25), as panic grows that some could be left behind to face threats from the insurgent Taleban as the United States withdraws troops.
The United States on Thursday announced a plan to evacuate thousands of vulnerable Afghan interpreters before the US military completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan so they can wrap up their visa applications from safety.
But many of those who attended the demonstration outside the US embassy in Kabul said the government had denied their Special Immigration Visas (SIV) applications.
"We want the US army and government to remove the SIV process and take us directly to the United States or to Guam because we are not safe here, day by day the Taleban threats are increasing and our lives are in danger," said Shamshad Ali, a former interpreter.
He said that he had been told that he had not worked for long enough for US forces to be granted an SIV.
A US Embassy in Kabul spokesman declined to comment on Friday's protest.
US President Joe Biden has said those who helped the United States will not be left behind, and a senior Republican lawmaker told Reuters the new plans to evacuate at-risk Afghans will include their family members for a total of as many as 50,000 people.
The decision by Biden's administration risks inflaming a sense of crisis in Afghanistan, as Biden meets Afghan President Ashraf Ghani for talks in Washington later on Friday aimed at projecting a sense of partnership despite the US military exit.
Fighting between US-backed Afghan forces and the Taleban has surged in recent weeks, with the militants gaining control of large amounts of territory.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that Washington was assessing whether the Taleban was serious about ending the conflict in Afghanistan, and that trying to take back the country by force was not consistent with peace efforts.
Political talks between the government and the Taleban have largely stalled, though there have been some meetings in recent weeks in Doha.
On Friday, the group's deputy leader Sirajuddin Haqqani released instructions, saying the insurgency had entered a "sensitive" phase as they took over districts around the country and there should be no "revenge" against those who surrendered and joined their ranks.
But many do not trust their assurances.
"It does not matter for the Taleban whether you have worked one month or 10 years, they only kill us for cooperating, my life and the lives of my family are 100 per cent in danger," said Hassib Ahmad Khaibar, a former interpreter.