Anyone whose done an operational deployment or a contract in a conflict zone probably has a few horror stories about locally employed civilians. Whether it’s the Afghan security guard who suddenly found religion and opened up with his AK or the Bosnian camp hairdresser who offered a few services that weren’t on the board outside her hut, some local employee probably made a lasting impression on you during your tour for all the wrong reasons.
It’s worth considering how hard life would be without those locals, though. Some of them just make life generally easier – cleaning up around camp so you don’t have to do daily litter sweeps, or running shops selling cold drinks and knock-off DVDs – but others have a vital operational role to play. Military interpreters are essential for some tasks, but a local terp has some vital advantages. They don’t just know the language; they’ve been brought up from birth in that culture and environment. That means they can pick up on the nuances of body language and atmospherics in a way that someone who’s done a course at a military language school just can’t. Plenty of patrolling infantrymen owe their lives to a timely decision by a local interpreter.
Unfortunately, when a mission ends in less than total success, things can turn very sour for anyone who worked with deployed troops. The Taliban do unspeakable things to any former LECs they get their grubby hands on, and the various militias in Iraq were just as bad. If we’re going to employ locals, we then have a duty to care for them when we pull out, and most of the time that’s going to mean taking them with us. If we leave them behind, there’s an excellent chance they, and probably their families, are going to end up dead. That’s a betrayal of people who helped us, and it’s also a security risk. If your local interpreter knows he’s going to be left behind when you go, there’s an obvious – and understandable – temptation for him to buy his safety by becoming an agent against you.
Right now there’s a debate in the UK, spurred by several Tory politicians and retired officers, about the treatment of Afghan interpreters. Some of them are having a lot of difficulty getting UK visas, and that’s quite irritating because the UK’s already home to a lot of people who support the Taliban. People of certain political persuasions are still worried about three teenage schoolgirls who ran away earlier this year and are now jihadi brides with Islamic State; they’re concerned about their safety and even how they’ll be treated if they decide to return to Britain. It’s absolutely infuriating that bleating idiots are worried about these jihadist scum while Afghans who’ve risked their lives to help us face being abandoned.
Yes, locally employed civilians are well paid for the work they do, but is that enough compensation? I don’t think so. These are people who gave us invaluable help, usually on the assumption that we were going to fix whatever was wrong with their country. They joined our team, and we shouldn’t forget about them when we quit the game and go home.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.