The NY Times among others published articles “Afghan Interpreters for the US are Left Stranded and at Risk”. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/15/world/asia/american-visa-delays-put-safety-out-of-afghan-interpreters-reach.html?ref=todayspaper which is also the photo source). The essence of the article is that the pull out of US forces from Afghanistan will leave many who have helped the US efforts in deadly peril.
As MISO professionals we are keenly aware of the need to work through people who understand the AO, its people and their culture. Often the best and most credible hires are local nationals who have make the dangerous decision to work for the US or coalition forces. They are paid well by local standards as long as they serve. They also earn the enmity of determined foes like the Taliban, who, unlike the US forces, will remain in Afghanistan for years to come.
Afghanistan is by no means the first place where this has happened. Interpreters are often overlooked as the eagerness of withdrawal embraces those who are on their way home. Many of these valued employees seek to enter the US as a way to not only bolster their security, but perhaps find a new and better life for them and their families.
Regrettably this is a small percentage of the valued workforce.
Advances in machine translation and ‘reachback’ support may help in some instances, but the need for a trusted interpreter who can not only be the eyes and ears of the MISO force, but who can add credibility to our messages is a critical element for success. We owe it to our valued allies to think about their future before they sacrifice their present.