The Taliban released a statement on Monday reassuring Afghans who worked with U.S. and NATO forces as interpreters and assistants there is no need to flee the country now that foreign militaries are pulling out as the Taliban has no plans to kill them.
“Those who have worked with the foreign military forces as interpreters or security guards, they do not need to flee the country, if they have any profession, they must serve their country and continue a normal life. They were only regarded as our enemies when they were at the front line beside our enemies in the front line of war,” said the Taliban statement.
“They shall not be in any danger on our part. The Islamic Emirate would like to inform all the above people that they should show remorse for their past actions and must not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country,” the Taliban cooed, using its preferred name for itself.
Afghan staffers are indeed concerned that the Taliban will slaughter them once it regains power.
“They are tracking us. The Taliban will not pardon us. They will kill us and they will behead us,” a former interpreter for U.S. forces told AFP last week.
“We were the voice… for the French troops in Afghanistan and now they have left us to the Taliban. If I stay in the country, there is no chance of survival for me. The French army has betrayed us,” said another former translator.
“When the Taliban came to know that I worked with U.S. forces, they killed my brother. Even the CIA acknowledged it was the Taliban who had killed my brother. Now, I live in fear and isolation,” said an interpreter interviewed by AFP in May.
AFP noted in May that a “backlog of about 19,000 applications from Afghanistan” had developed by the end of 2019, which is larger than the number of visas issued to Afghans during the preceding two decades of conflict. U.S. officials argued one reason for the visa slowdown was increasing concern that jihadis could sneak into the United States by posing as interpreters.
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said on May 27 that Afghan nationals who assisted the U.S. military will be given relocation assistance before the U.S. completes its withdrawal in September. Up to 18,000 Afghan staffers, plus their families, could be affected by the evacuation plan.
“There are plans being developed very, very rapidly here,” Milley said. “We recognize that a very important task is to ensure that we remain faithful to [Afghan staffers], and that we do what is necessary to ensure their protection and, if necessary, get them out of the country if that is what they want to do.”
Other U.S. officials, notably including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have said the U.S. will continue its “enduring and ongoing commitment to Afghanistan” and support its security forces, implying that evacuation for former translators and staffers might not be necessary. Critics of the Biden administration’s announcements worried that the accelerating pace of U.S. withdrawal could leave some Afghans who worked with the departing American military in peril.
The United Kingdom announced at the end of May that it would expedite relocation for Afghan staffers and their families, citing a “debt of gratitude” to locals who worked with British forces and fears they would be “at risk of reprisals” if left behind. Over 3,000 Afghans are expected to relocate to the U.K. under the program.
Nervous Afghan staffers told AFP last week they are racing against time to get out of the country before the Taliban can kill them. They pointed out that the Afghan government dismissed some of them for false or minor charges of misbehavior, making them potentially ineligible for American or European expedited visa programs.
“The situation is deteriorating now as foreign forces leave. We are scared of the insurgents. They know our faces,” one former NATO translator said.