Afghanistan: Exiting Forces Should Protect Interpreters

Countries with troops departing Afghanistan should accelerate programs to resettle former Afghan interpreters and other employees who are increasingly at risk from Taliban forces, Human Rights Watch said today.

The planned withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan before September 11, 2021, has heightened fears that the Taliban will target Afghan interpreters, translators, embassy staff, and other assistants to foreign forces. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, and other countries should urgently accelerate visa processing and relocation efforts.

“Afghans who worked with foreign troops or embassies face huge risks of retaliation from the Taliban,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director. “Departing countries should commit to assisting Afghans who reasonably face danger because of their work with foreign forces.”

The Taliban, in a June 7 statement, denied that former interpreters and others who worked for foreign forces were at risk, but warned them that they should “show remorse for their past actions and … not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country.” But the Taliban have long targeted civilians, particularly those they accuse of working for the Afghan government or foreigners. In January, Taliban insurgents reportedly killed one interpreter who had worked for the US for 12 years and had been waiting for a visa. Other former interpreters have said they have received death threats.