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Visa shortage, delays threaten Afghan interpreters

  |   April 15, 2013 at 3:44 PM
KABUL, Afghanistan, April 15 (UPI) -- A delay in granting visas to thousands of Afghans working for American forces in Afghanistan as interpreters has put them at risk, officials say.

The Taliban reportedly kills at least a few interpreters each month, and more are exposed daily as U.S. forces withdraw from the country, leaving the Afghans without military protection, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Their plight is accented by a stalled bureaucracy during the ever-shortening time before all U.S. troops pull out and the relatively small number of visas made available to them.

Iraqi translators received 25,000 visas as U.S. troops prepared to leave that country. The translators were able to take their parents and siblings in addition to all their children.

Afghan translators have access to only about 7,500 visas, and they can take only wives and dependent children.

About 22 percent of the visas for the Iraqi translators have been granted but only about 12 percent for the Afghans, according to a letter to the White House and State Department from members of Congress.

Some lawmakers on Capitol Hill say they plan to introduce legislation to extend the timeline for visas programs in Iraq and Afghanistan and broaden the type of family members who can be included.

The letter to the White House called the programs "a matter of national security."

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