Afghan

Mohammad Nadir, center, a former Afghan interpreter who enlisted as a U.S. Marine, poses with a group of Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan, in February 2017.

Photo courtesy of U.S. Marine Corps

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Guam officials as of Friday were still learning more about an advocacy group's push for the use of the island as a temporary location for thousands of Afghan interpreters who helped American troops, while their visas are being processed to resettle in the United States.

Some members of the U.S. Congress quoted by national media also expressed support for the use of Guam, which also hosted refugees to await visa processing after the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War.

Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero and Delegate Michael San Nicolas' offices had yet to respond to questions about the use of Guam as an evacuation site, but the chairman of the Legislature's military and veterans affairs committee, Sen. Jose "Pedo" Terlaje, said if called upon to assist, Guam will help.

"If history calls upon us to temporarily host refugees of war again, as we have in decades past with Vietnamese and Iraqi Kurds, we will show the same spirit of inafa'maolek we always have," Terlaje told The Guam Daily Post on Friday. "If anyone understands a people's need for help after a war, it is the people of Guam."

Terlaje, however, said proper social distancing during the pandemic must be maintained.

The senator also said the federal government must have a plan for quarantine, Covid-19 testing and daily personal protective equipment as well.

"I'm not sure where they can achieve the necessary social distancing except in our hotels. We will continue to monitor the situation," Terlaje said.

The U.S. plans to complete the withdrawal of all American troops from Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2021, the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that drew the U.S. into its longest war.

Advocates said it's too late to rely on the Special Immigrant Visa program to bring Afghans, along with their families, into the United States with the short time frame.

These Afghans face harm from the Taliban once American troops pull out of Afghanistan.

Matthew Zeller, a co-founder of No One Left Behind, which helps former Afghan and Iraqi interpreters who resettle on U.S. soil, said Guam is the best place to send Afghan interpreters in the interim.

"We're out of options. The time to save these people with the (Special Immigrant Visa) program is the 13 years it's existed. We're out of time. It's Guam or bust," Zeller told Defense One, which delivers news, breaking analysis, and ideas on the topics and trends on U.S. defense and national security.

The same Defense One piece quoted Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., as agreeing to the use of Guam as an "obvious" option because the island was used to evacuate refugees of past wars, but he said he's also open to other options.

"We need to evacuate our Afghan allies and friends before they are slaughtered in the wake of our departure," Moulton told Defense One's senior national security correspondent Jacqueline Feldscher.

Zeller wrote in a column on time.com that the U.S. "must hammer out evacuation methods for bringing the Afghan (SIV) applicants to a safe place while they wait for their visas to be issued."

"History provides a model of how the U.S. should move forward," Zeller wrote in time.com. "In 1975 and 1996, the U.S. evacuated its Vietnamese and Kurdish allies, respectively, to Guam. They lived in safety while their permanent visa applications were processed. We should do the same for our allies in Afghanistan, while there is still time."

Zeller, a U.S. Army veteran, told Defense One there are about 18,000 translators and interpreters who applied for the Special Immigrant Visa and are still awaiting approval. On average, he said, translators bring three family members with them to the U.S.

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