Tens of thousands of Iraqis have served with the U.S. military and other organizations during the past five and a half years as translators, drivers, construction workers, engineers, and office workers. A disturbing trend has emerged: extremists and militia groups are targeting the estimated 30,000 to 100,000 U.S.-affiliated Iraqis as traitors for working with Americans. In many cases, the lives of these Iraqis and their families are in imminent danger. Many have become refugees or internally displaced persons within Iraq. These Iraqis urgently need and deserve America’s help, and the Obama administration should act quickly to remove them from harm’s way.
Yet these Iraqis have been stuck until recently in a resettlement process lasting anywhere from six months to two years. Because of bureaucratic red tape, current U.S. policies do not adequately address the security concerns of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis. The Obama administration should initiate an immediate airlift—Operation Safe Haven Iraq 2009—of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis in need of protection as the best course of action for urgently addressing this problem.
The United States has a moral obligation to protect U.S.-affiliated Iraqis who risked their lives in service to the United States in Iraq. The Special Immigrant Visa program and the Iraq in-country refugee processing program are meant to expedite processing of U.S.-affiliated Iraqis. Both programs represent a step in the right direction, but an airlift would importantly move the majority of refugee processing out of the region while violence, though diminished, continues in Iraq.