Leaving forces must protect Afghan staff from Taliban retaliation, resettle them

Moscow, Jun 8 (Agency) A prominent human rights group on Tuesday called on countries whose troops are on track to leave Afghanistan to step up efforts to resettle former Afghan interpreters and other local employees, saying the withdrawal heightened fears that they would be targeted by Taliban forces.

The Taliban on Monday assured Afghans who worked for foreign troops as guards or interpreters that they should not fear for their lives once these forces leave. The group urged these Afghans to “show remorse for their past actions” and not engage in similar activities. According to the radical movement, such actions amount to treason against Islam and the country. “Countries with troops departing Afghanistan should accelerate programs to resettle former Afghan interpreters and other employees who are increasingly at risk from Taliban forces,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said, adding that these countries should urgently fast-track visa processing and relocation efforts.

Though the US and UK announced they would be accelerating programs to relocate these Afghan employees and their families, advocacy groups are alarmed by the efforts proceeding “too slowly,” saying these programs may not adequately cover all former Afghan employees who may be at risk, the group said. “The countries now withdrawing from Afghanistan have been far too slow in developing evacuation, relocation, and resettlement plans for their former Afghan employees,” HRW Associate Asia Director Patricia Gossman said, as quoted in a press release. Washington announced in April that all US forces would be removed from Afghanistan by September 11, with the gradual pullout starting in May. Other NATO countries are also withdrawing their troops in coordination with the United States.