Elise Martel, a sociology lecturer at Loyola University Chicago, is a volunteer with Refugee Community Connection. The plane that left the Kabul airport on Thursday, with passengers including dozens of U. S. citizens and Afghan dual nationals, may have stirred a slight hope in many thousands of Afghans who helped Americans in Afghanistan and were left behind. Perhaps eventually they, too, will be able to escape, and avoid the Taliban’s retribution. But those hopeful Afghans would at least possess special immigrant visas, or SIVs, issued to those who worked directly for the Defense Department or U. S. Embassy. Their misery at being abandoned by the U. S. government may be exceeded only by those Afghans who also helped Americans but were employed by U. S. government contractors and cannot obtain the required paperwork to prove it. I have been working for the past several weeks with a loose network of civilians and veterans helping Afghans who were America’s partners to get out of the country. I’ve encountered many bleak stories, but the bleakest of all — the worst Catch-22 of all — may be the one faced by an Afghan who worked in a U. S. government contractor program that no longer exists. I’ll use just his surname’s initial, K., because he fears for his life if the Taliban discover that he worked for Americans. He is in hiding with his wife and five children. The youngest is 3 years old. On Aug. 2, the State Department announced a U. S. Refugee Admissions Program Priority 2 designation, “in light of increased levels of Taliban violence.” The “opportunity to permanently resettle in the United States” was being offered “to many thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members who may be at risk due to their U. S. affiliation but who are not eligible for a Special Immigrant Visa.”That was K. He worked from 2010 to 2014 for the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations, or TFBSO, program originally run by the Defense Department, then by the U. S. Agency for International Development, or USAID. He has ID badges, pay statements and other evidence of his employment. His jobs included “static security guard,” paying $322 a month. Certificates associated with his work, including one for successfully completing a course in “Basic Safety, Stoppage & Immediate Action Drills with the AK47 Kalashnikov,” once were proudly displayed in his family home. He holds onto the documents — despite the danger they represent, amid reports of door-to-door searches by the Taliban — in the hope that they will somehow help him and his family escape. The task force’s mandate in Afghanistan was to encourage foreign investment and expand private-sector employment. It’s impossible to say how many Afghans worked under the task force’s umbrella, but one government report lists nearly 100 contractors alone — the workers would have been in the thousands. A Rand Corp. study reported that the task force spent $825 million on its Afghanistan operations in 2010-2014.
All data is taken from the source: http://washingtonpost.com
Article Link: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/09/12/siv-program-afghans-us-government-contractors/
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