Afghan interpreters feeling abandoned by U.S.

SILVER SPRINGS, Md. -- After seven years translating for the highest levels of the U.S. and Afghan military, Hameed Afzali was a marked man.

Afghans would see him interpreting on Afghanistan National Television, which instantly made him a target.

A note from the Taliban left on the door of a family business threatened his family.

"Don't think that this is just a paper. I will get you there," the note read.

He knew it was time to come to the U.S.

"That was the only choice that we had. We had to move here."

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Afghan interpreter Hameed Afzali secured a visa through the State Department.
CBS News
He secured one of 3,000 visas open to Afghan interpreters through a State Department program that promised the basics upon arrival: three-months of rent, furniture and help finding work.

But when he first arrived, he was provided nothing. The promises were largely empty. He was placed in a small apartment without a single pot or pan. His neighborhood was so dangerous that his five-year-old son and three-year-old daughter must play inside. Everything the family has was brought by veterans and church groups, including the one tip that lead to a few weeks of work.

"Sometimes I feel I am not going to survive in this situation. Because I am a proud man. I want to work. I want to support my family, but there is no way. How to get a job. How to find the ways to get the job."

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Matt Zeller
CBS News
Matt Zeller is a retired army captain who was stationed in a remote Afghanistan outpost and now runs a group trying to help the translators adjust to life in the U.S.

"We're bringing them here. We're dropping them into slum housing. We're not doing anything whatsoever to help them find jobs," says Zeller. "I wouldn't be sitting here right now if my translators hadn't saved my life. How could we not possibly give these people more than a slum and a good luck and that's it?"

As for Afzali, his rundown apartment costs $1,300 a month. Without a job, he and his family now face eviction by the end of the month.

"We were the eyes and ears of coalition and American forces. We are left in a lurch and we don't know where we are going to go or what is going to happen to us tomorrow," says Afzali.

CBS News reached out to the State Department to ask about their awareness of the situation of interpreters, like Hameed Afzali, are facing. The State Department refused to comment on the record.

There is a cap on the number of visas issued by the State Department for interpreters and they expect that limit will be reached within days.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.

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