‘Blacklisted’ Afghan interpreters were disqualified from U.S. visas. Now they’re in hiding

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As an expert in explosive device removal, H.S. spent nearly three decades carefully cleaning up land mines and disabling unexploded bombs planted by insurgent groups in Afghanistan.

During the last 12 years of his career, H.S. — whom The Times is identifying by his initials for his safety — worked as an interpreter for U.S. government contractors training Afghan national police and army forces to do his job. A supervisor said his dedication and experience made him irreplaceable.

But H.S. said that in 2020 he failed a counterintelligence screening after mixing up the Western and Afghan calendars when telling an agent the date of a work trip to Pakistan. As a result, H.S. was fired and his application for a U.S. visa was denied in 2021, just a few months before the remaining U.S. troops left his country as the Taliban took power. He spent most of the last year in hiding north of Kabul, the Afghan capital.

“I can’t continue my life like this,” he said. “The Taliban, if they find me, they will send me to jail or kill me.”

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