Interpreters for U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have for some time had difficulty getting admission to the United States, in spite of the undoubted peril they are in. U.S. withdrawal has hit these allies of America especially hard. As the Taliban retake areas of the Afghan hinterland, and Islamic State and other jihadi groups vie for territory in Iraq, the interpreters who risked their lives to work with American troops have found themselves increasingly in danger, with bounties on their heads and threats to their families.
In just one of many cases, interpreter Salkhidad Afghan, who had worked with the Marines and Air Force since 2008, was murdered by the Taliban in May 2015, near Herat. Afghan officials said he had been hunted down, kidnapped, and tortured.
Mr. Afghan applied for a U.S. visa in 2011 — and in 2015 was still waiting.
Sami Kazikhani may fare a little better, although the end of his story isn’t written yet. He was an interpreter for the Marines in 2011 and 2012. He now has a determined United States Marine, retired Sergeant Aaron Fleming, working on his side in America.
Fleming served with Kazikhani in 2012, and his unit recommended Kazikhani for a special visa when the Marines rotated out. Fleming says they couldn’t find out the status of the visa afterward. But the Kazikhani family — Sami, his wife Yasmin, and his baby daughter Roxanna — were still in Afghanistan until just two weeks ago. (Emphasis added.)
Kazikhani began his journey toward Germany the same day the Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi drowned in the Mediterranean Sea. He fled Afghanistan after his wife’s family threatened to behead him and the Taliban put a bounty on his head because of his service as a Marine translator in 2011 and 2012.
Kazikhani, his wife, Yasmiin, and their 10-month-old daughter Roxanna have spent the past week sleeping on the streets of Athens, Belgrade, and Macedonia. Austria provided some comforts denied to them in other locales overwhelmed by the influx of thousands of migrants and refugees from Syria and other nations in the Middle East and North Africa.
A source for Bill McMorris at Washington Free Beacon — another retired Marine — says it isn’t clear where the Kazikhanis are right now. Kazikhani did cross into Austria, and is hoping to get to Germany and apply again for a U.S. visa, probably at our consulate in Frankfurt.
But Germany instituted strict border controls again Sunday evening, after being flooded with some 40,000 refugees over the weekend, and news media report huge crowds and delays at the border between Austria and Germany. It simply isn’t known whether Sami Kazikhani and his family have been able to get through to Germany.
In theory, they could try to remain in Austria and seek their visa there. But it’s much easier for a network of retired U.S. servicemen to assist them in Germany.
And why they should be having to go through this at all is the real question. What kind of a country fails to honor Sami Kazikhani’s service by expediting a visa for him and his family, and getting him directly out of Afghanistan using our own resources?
It is disgraceful to leave him and his family to take their chances with a smuggling network. Yet at the same time, Obama has announced that we will accept 10,000 additional Syrian refugees — who we can hope are actually Syrian refugees, and not others posing as Syrians. With Sami Kazikhani, we at least know who we’re letting into the country.
Semper Fi, Sgt. Fleming would say. No man left behind, as the Navy SEALs put it. If you would like to help the Kazikhanis, Aaron and Marion Fleming are crowdfunding for them here.