CNN on Plight of Afghan Interpreters Terminated for Failing Polygraphs

Abdul Rashid Shirzad: Terminated for failing a polygraph “test” and denied Special Immigrant Visa

In a report presented by foreign correspondent Anna Coren, CNN chronicles the plight of Afghan linguists who served with United States forces but have been denied Special Immigrant Visas. Both interpreters showcased in the video report were fired because they failed pseudoscientific polygraph “tests.”

The following is an excerpt from the written article accompanying the video report:

Abdul Rashid Shirzad…served for five years as a linguist working alongside America’s military elite, translating for US Special Forces.

He showed CNN photographs of his time on missions in the Kejran Valley in Uruzgan province working with the US Navy’s SEAL Team 10. But according to Shirzad, his service has now amounted to a death sentence. The US government rejected his Special Immigrant Visa, and he said that’s made him a target for the Taliban.

“If they catch me they’re going to kill me, kill my kids and my wife too. It’s payback time for them you know,” he said.

The father of three said his contract with the US military was terminated in 2014 after he also failed a polygraph test. He had applied for his visa the year before.

But Shirzad’s letters of recommendation from SEAL commanders, seen by CNN, reflect a translator who went above and beyond duty. They describe him as a “valuable and necessary asset” who “braved enemy fire” and “undoubtedly saved the lives of Americans and Afghans alike.”

Shirzad said he was excited to work with the Americans, and became a lead liaison between US and Afghan Special Forces. One recommendation letter for the visa, from a US commander, described how Shirzad took part in 63 “high-risk direct action combat missions” and was “vital” to the success of his team’s operations. It detailed how he helped the recovery of a team member who was caught in a blast and left with life threatening injuries.

Shirzad said he has no idea what he did wrong and never received an explanation for his termination. His visa rejection letter from the US Embassy stated “lack of faithful and valuable service.”

Sohail Pardis with U.S. Army colonel
(Source: Afghans Left Behind Association, @AllieLeft on Twitter)

The situation for the second interpreter showcased, Sohail Pardis, is more grim. Pardis worked as an interpreter for U.S. military contractor Mission Essential Personnel from 17 May 2011 until 18 August 2012 when, as CNN reports, he was terminated after failing a polygraph “test.” Pardis was subsequently denied a Special Immigrant Visa.

Mission Essential Personnel letter regarding Sohail Pardis’ employment
(Source: Afghans Left Behind Association, @AllieLeft on Twitter)

According to family members, on 12 May 2021, the Taliban stopped Pardis at a checkpoint, dragged him out of his car, and beheaded him. CNN showed a blurred copy of the following photograph, which we believe readers should see unedited:

Sohail Pardis’ corpse
(Source: Afghans Left Behind Association, @AllieLeft on Twitter)

CNN correspondent Anna Coren spoke with Pardis’ friend and fellow Special Immigrant Visa reject Abdulhaq Ayoubi and visited Pardis’ gravesite. The video report may be viewed here.

Numerous other Afghan interpreters who served honorably with U.S. forces have been denied Special Immigrant Visas because of failed polygraph “tests.” (See our article from last week, Afghan Interpreters Denied Special Immigrant Visas Based on Polygraph Results.)

It is unconscionable that Special Immigrant Visas are being denied based on polygraph outcomes. In 2002, the National Academy of Sciences completed a thorough review of the scientific evidence on polygraphs and advised that “[polygraph testing’s] accuracy in distinguishing actual or potential security violators from innocent test takers is insufficient to justify reliance on its use in employee security screening in federal agencies.”

Please write to President Biden and your members of Congress and urge them to reverse this policy. See Special Immigrant Visas Should Not Be Denied Based on Polygraph Results on the Action Alerts forum of the AntiPolygraph.org message board for links and suggested wordings.