Australia is urgently working to protect visa applications for Afghan interpreters placed on Taliban death lists.
At least 300 interpreters who worked with Australian troops during the war seek shelter here as Allied forces leave Afghanistan.
Killing Taliban operatives put many of them on “death lists” for working with “enemy infidels” in the past 20 years of war.
A letter was distributed to some interpreters making direct threats to their lives, including a father who worked with Australian troops in 2010.
A letter (written in Pashto) was distributed to some interpreters making direct threats to their lives, including a father who worked with Australian troops in 2010, which read: ‘Wait for your death very soon’
Taliban agents followed him to his home and pasted the letter, signed by the commander of “guerrilla operations” named Spin Talib, on his door.
“We are honest in our words and we will catch you whether it is day or night, and you will be punished, and we will achieve our goal,” the letter read.
“Wait for your death very soon.”
The letter condemned him for his work “for a long time with infidel enemies of the Islamic emirate of Afghanistan, as an interpreter and slave.”
“We tried to kill you by hitting you with a vehicle, but unfortunately you didn’t die, only your leg was broken,” it said.
This chilling threat was a reference to an attack on the man in 2016 while he was shopping.
‘My leg is broken [in] three places, if I open my eyes I was in the hospital,” he said in a video recorded in his hospital bed at the time.
The letter obtained by the ABC then claimed that the Taliban’s Department of Intelligence and Military Council had ordered commander Talib to kill him.
“We have reports that you and other interpreters are in contact with unbelieving friends to get you out of Afghanistan and get you a visa,” it continued.
“Therefore, you will not be forgiven by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, nor will we accept any other excuse.”
Retired Australian army officer Jason Scanes, who worked with the translator, said the man was now in hiding with his family.
“He is very concerned about this situation, it is clear that he has had to move himself and his young family out of his home – they are moving around to find safe locations,” he told ABC.
The Taliban claimed that translators would not be harmed if they ‘repented’ for their work with foreign soldiers, but the interpreters do not trust their word.
Incredibly, the translator’s application for a humanitarian visa in 2013 was rejected by the then Immigration Minister in 2018 on “character reasons” – despite his risky work for Australian troops in the field.
The translator was hit by a car by Taliban agents while shopping in 2016, breaking his leg in three places.
The federal court eventually overturned last May’s decision, because Mr Dutton had not sufficiently considered the threat to the interpreter’s life.
“Had the Minister concluded that the risk of woman and child being killed by jihadists was greater than the risk of the applicant causing harm to the Australian community because of sympathy for the same jihadists, the Minister could reasonably have been expected to say so,” the bank ruled.
It is clear that there has been no meaningful involvement in the complainants’ allegations about the appellant’s family.
‘[Mr Dutton’s decision] neither acknowledges nor wrestles with the extraordinary circumstance that the work the appellant had undertaken with the ADF in Afghanistan would have put his relatives at risk of being killed.”
Scott Morrison said Australia was “very aware” of the issue and steadfastly went through the paperwork for all 300 translators.
The prime minister said it was a sensitive issue, but he acknowledged that it needed to be dealt with quickly.
“We’ve done this safely before and we’ll be able to do it again, but it would be very useless for me to go into that,” he told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday.
“We are well aware of it and we are working urgently, steadfastly and patiently to ensure that we do this correctly, as we have done on previous occasions.”
Scott Morrison said Australia was “very aware” of the issue and steadfastly went through the paperwork for all 300 translators
The military chief who led Australia to Afghanistan 20 years ago warned vulnerable interpreters should not be left behind.
“We have a very serious obligation,” retired Admiral Chris Barrie told ABC radio.
“It would be unscrupulous to leave these people at the mercy of the Taliban. We have to do something to help them.’
Barrie compared the situation to the aftermath of the Vietnam War, when military supporters brought refugees to Australia before political leaders officially approved their arrival.
The plight of the interpreters has been made all the more difficult after Australia’s decision to close its embassy in Kabul due to security concerns.
Mr Barrie questioned the decision to close the embassy and said it made it even more difficult to submit visa applications.
“But I’m sure if we commit ourselves we can find a solution for that,” he said.
“I’m not sure if (closure) itself was a good decision, but we should never leave these people to their own devices.”
Britain and the US both agreed to accelerate the resettlement of thousands of Afghan interpreters and their families.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne spoke about the visa issue during a recent trip to Kabul and indicated that the government is keen to support all eligible translators.
The last remaining Australian troops will leave Afghanistan in September, following America’s decision to end the war before the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.