Thirteen thousand Afghans who worked with the International Security Assistance Force have fled to the US under a special visa programme created especially for them, state department officials say. About 70% of the total are said to be interpreters. But this route to safety has been closed to hundreds of people who, like Nader, were sacked from their jobs and then blacklisted as a security risk…
Others made the mistake of taking a mobile phone on patrol, prohibited because it could have enabled them to alert the Taliban to the soldiers’ presence. One accidentally left a pair of US serviceman’s trousers in his bag as he went out of the base – a dangerous mistake, because if the trousers fell into the wrong hands they could be used by a militant to disguise himself.
Many of the interpreters in fact did nothing wrong, they just failed a polygraph test.
Interpreters took the tests regularly, and were asked questions designed to weed out Taliban sympathisers. But the interpreters say the system was unreliable. One of them, Sayid, says he failed the test simply because he was nervous. After seven years of service with the US and Canadian forces he was refused entry into his base one day when he returned from leave.