The betrayal of Western countries towards their Afghan comrades


File Image | Photo credit: AP

“No man is left behind.” So goes the unofficial creed of the American armed forces, written in the global public consciousness, thanks to countless war films in which soldiers do the right thing by their comrades. However, as the current events in Afghanistan show, when it comes to the thousands of Afghan interpreters who, over the past 20 years, have risked their lives to assist Allied forces, this promise is utterly in vain. .

The precipitous withdrawal of Allied troops from Afghanistan and the foreseeable resurgence of the Taliban prove, equally predictably, a death sentence for anyone who aided “the enemy” for the long years following the ousting of the Taliban. in 2001.

Sohail Pardis worked with Americans as a translator for almost 18 months before his job was terminated in 2012 after failing a polygraph test. The polygraph, a notoriously unreliable “lie detector” test, was routinely used to clear Afghans into Allied bases. Most recently, it was part of the approval process for former Afghan employees of US and foreign forces seeking visas to start a new life abroad.

Failure of the test cost Pardis his chance at a new life in America and ultimately claimed the life of the 32-year-old. In May, long after the Americans he had helped returned to the safety of their own country, Pardis was stopped at a roadblock by the Taliban and beheaded by the side of the road.

It is not an isolated fate. Sources suggest that thousands like him have already been murdered by the Taliban. And, as allied governments procrastinate and deny visas on petty bureaucratic grounds, thousands more face death as the Taliban expand their grip on Afghanistan.

In June, the Taliban promised not to harm Afghans who had worked for foreign forces. None of those who have received death threats believe the promise, including a linguist who said CNN recently that he had worked for five years with the US special forces but his visa application had been rejected. It didn’t matter that the commanders of the SEAL teams he had assisted vouched for his good service in written testimonies, stating that he had on several occasions “shortened enemy fire and no doubt saved the lives of Americans and daughters. ‘Afghans’.

His own life is now on the line.

A former British Special Forces translator who, like so many others, is still awaiting news of his long delayed visa application, told the British Telegraph newspaper that “thousands of interpreters have been killed. Each of the interpreters will know someone who was killed by the Taliban. Another said the Telegraph: “I enjoyed working for the British and I have a lot of good memories. I think the British are fair, but the British government is different. They don’t treat us fairly.

It is clear that if left to the military who relied so heavily on them, none of the interpreters would be left behind. Several former British military leaders, for example, wrote to their government urging it to rethink its policies, and last week the BBC Radio There was a revealing interview with a British Army officer who spoke fondly of his efforts to find out what had happened to the men he served with in 2007.

One had already been killed, he discovered. Another, “Sharif”, had his visa application rejected.

“We did our six month tour, but Sharif stayed with the British units for a total of three years,” the ex-soldier said.

Sharif’s request was denied because in 2009 he was dismissed for unspecified “disciplinary reasons”. In addition, the former captain found, “about a third of our performers were made redundant for this vague reason. It is necessary to renew these cases.

British and American veterans of the long and ultimately futile war in Afghanistan, he added, “have a strong sense of duty, a connection to these people… It’s really important to us as we fight what we now see in the news that we are not abandoning our performers at the very least. The links we had with our interpreters were particularly close. They were our spokespersons when we visited these Afghan communities, and we gave people our assurances of democracy, stability and progress. “

It is of course not the fault of the soldiers who gave these assurances that their governments were ultimately unable to honor them. But this is of course not the first time that, in the interest of political or military expediency, Western powers intervening in the region have made promises that they could not or never have had. ‘intention to hold.

The Arab revolt against the Ottomans that erupted in the Hijaz during World War I was instigated by the British government, with TE Lawrence “of Arabia” as the convincing leader, on the false promise of a pan-Arab state for the Arabs after the war. .

The iconic photograph of Americans fleeing by helicopter from the rooftop of the American Embassy in Saigon in April 1970, while abandoned South Vietnamese citizens screaming desperately at doors, tells its own vivid story of betrayal.

More recently, in 1991, America contented itself with encouraging the Kurds in northern Iraq to rise up against Saddam Hussein, leaving them to their fate after hearing the call.

Afghanistan, in other words, is just the latest in a long line of betrayals.

From the start, there was never the slightest chance that well-meaning foreign soldiers, tourists in Afghanistan’s complex political and cultural landscape, could one day deliver on the promises of democracy, stability and progress.

The American and British soldiers who made these promises are safe, back in their own world. Those who helped them are now paying the price for believing the flippant politicians who sent them there.

In agreement with Syndication Bureau

Jonathan Gornall is a guest contributor. The opinions expressed are personal.

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