Congress to vote on visa plan for Afghan interpreters
KABUL (PAN): American legislators are all poised to vote on a visa programme for thousands of Afghan interpreters who risk their lives working with US troops in the war-torn country, a media report said on Thursday.
Despite promises that the present and former translators would be granted US visas to help ward off threats to their lives in Afghanistan, Congress will vote on Friday on a much constricted visa programme.
After inordinate bureaucratic delays, the plan suffered another setback recently when the State Department ruled many interpreters with the military did not qualify for visas, the Washington Post reported.
The State Department linked the translators' ineligibility for US visas to their hiring by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), not directly by the US government. But military officers reject that rationale, saying most of the interpreters work only for US forces .
The Afghan Allies Protection Act, which Congress approved in 2009, is to expire in September 2014. Only 32 of more than 5,700 Afghan applicants were issued visas through the programme until last fall
"Two key pieces of legislation -- including vastly different pledges -- are expected to be voted on this week, dictating the programme’s future," the newspaper said.
In line with one proposal introduced in the Senate, the programme will be extended to 2015 and grant about 5,000 visas annually. It will broaden the language of the existing program me so that interpreters hired by the ISAF will probably be eligible.
The second suggestion, floated by the House Armed Services Committee, will also extend the programme but cut the number of available visas by two-thirds. An amendment to that provision from several members will attempt to make the application process more efficient.
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