20,000 Afghan interpreters asking for US asylum

Former Afghan interpreters, who worked with US troops in Afghanistan, demonstrate in front of the US embassy in Kabul in June 2021.
Former Afghan interpreters, who worked with US troops in Afghanistan, demonstrate in front of the US embassy in Kabul in June 2021.PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - About 20,000 Afghans who worked as interpreters for the United States during its war in Afghanistan and now fear retribution from Taleban insurgents have applied for evacuation, the White House said on Thursday (July 15).

"There are approximately 20,000 Afghans who have applied," Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.

Psaki said those are all former translators for the military or other entities, whom the Taleban have targeted.

However, the United States will also consider applications by the families of the interpreters, she said, without specifying how many family members would be allowed.

According to some estimates, the number of people eligible to leave would total around 100,000.

Officials say evacuations will start this month.

The interpreters being readied for evacuation are those who have already filed applications under the State Department program of Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) for Iraqi and Afghan translators and interpreters.

Psaki said those who have completed security vetting could then be temporarily housed in a US military base.

Those still needing to go through the vetting process, will first be sent either to a US base abroad or a third country "where they will be safely housed until their visa processing is going on," Psaki added.