When the United States pulled most of its forces out of Iraq and NATO reduced troop numbers in Afghanistan, key personnel in both countries who worked closely with U.S. troops felt abandoned. These workers were employed by the U.S. government and they include translators and interpreters who helped American soldiers bridge the language barrier on the ground. After the draw down, their activities with the U.S. military
put them and their families in danger of retaliation. That's despite their vital work in major military operations where they made troops aware of IEDs, helped them communicate with locals and occasionally picked up weapons to assist in firefights. Their importance was highlighted when SEAL Team 6 brought an interpreter on their successful raid to kill Osama Bin Laden in 2011.
These workers are able to apply for a special immigrant visa that guarantees permanent lawful U.S. residence. However, this costs thousands of dollars and the pace of admissions was painfully slow between 2007 and 2013. In 2010, 2,000 Iraqi citizens and 108 Afghans were able to enter the U.S. through the program. Things have gradually started to improve and Afghans now make up the bulk of successful applications, not too surprising given the limited number of U.S. soldiers remaining in Iraq
. Between 2013 and 2014, the number of Afghans and their dependents granted entry to the U.S. on special immigrant visas climbed from 442 to 7,156. The pace of admissions went up even further last year with 16,871 Afghans and 2,456 Iraqis entering the U.S.