Afghanistan exit puts defence minister under pressure to act on interpreters

Human rights group said the government should create an emergency safety plan for Afghan interpreters when the troops go home

Amnesty International is concerned about what will become of interpreters in Afghanistan who have worked for the Danish military when Danish combat troops leave that troubled country in August – a year ahead of schedule.

“There must be some Afghan interpreters shaking in their boots over the idea that Danish soldiers will soon be packing their bags,” Ole Hoff Lund, a spokesperson for Amnesty International, told Information newspaper. “It is irresponsible for Denmark leave the country without having a clear plan on how to ensure that the interpreters do not end up in the hands of the Taleban.”

Amnesty believes that Denmark should follow Norway's example and offer interpreters asylum on the basis of an individual assessment.

Concern for the Afghan interpreters is not unfounded, said Jens Ringsmose, an associate professor at the Centre for War Studies at the University of Southern Denmark.

“One would expect that Afghans who have helped the international forces are exposed to increased risk when the troops pull out,” Ringsmose told Information.

The Taleban has lately been targeting pro-government civilians like interpreters. In 2012, there were 1,077 attempted murders of civilians who were considered by the Taleban to be pro-government or working for coalition forces. There were only 605 such attacks in 2011.

Former interpreter Fareed Ahmad Kabeer recently told The Copenhagen Post that he felt his life would be in danger if he went back to Afghanistan and was therefore seeking asylum in Denmark.

Kabeer said that it is hard to keep the identities of interpreters secret because informants pass on information to the Taleban.

“It’s really simple for any group to get information about me or other interpreters or officers who help the coalition forces,” Kabeer said.

As of yet, Denmark's early exit has not caused the defence minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), to change his position against offering interpreters help or asylum.

Hækkerup said that he is awaiting a statement from the military before making any decisions regarding the interpreters. The report, expected to be completed in April, will clarify what the Danish exit might mean for the safety of interpreters.

“The assessment will help us make the best possible decision,” Hækkerup told Information.

The military estimates that about 100 Afghan interpreters have worked for Danish forces since 2007.

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