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Retired Army Col. Who Rescued Iraqi Interpreters to Discuss Effort to Evacuate Afghans

Retired U.S. Army Col. Steve Miska speaks during an Iraqi press conference with help from an interpreter (courtesy of Steve Miska)

A retired colonel who helped Iraqi interpreters flee Baghdad will be speaking in Arlington a few days after the government said it will evacuate Afghans who helped the U.S.

While on his second of three tours in Iraq, Col. Steve Miska (U.S. Army, Ret.) aided dozens of interpreters trying to flee Baghdad before state militias could kill them for treason. Now retired after a 25-year career, he has written a book about the “underground railroad” he helped to establish, which led interpreters to safety from Baghdad to Amman, Jordan before ending in the U.S.

In retirement, Miska has been vocal about the need to protect interpreters, and now his cause is in the news. This week, the Biden administration announced it will expedite visas for Afghans who, having worked with the U.S. military, could face revenge attacks by the Taliban.

Miska will discuss his book, “Baghdad Underground Railroad: Saving American Allies in Iraq,” and how it relates to current events this Sunday at Clarendon United Methodist Church. The event at 606 N. Irving Street will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. It is free but registration online is required.

National news outlets have recently featured the retired colonel, who calls the current plight of interpreters “one of the most significant human rights issues of the Global War on Terrorism.”

“The mostly young men and women who embraced American idealism risked their lives to support U.S. service members in countries where understanding the language, the people, and the contours of the culture are often a matter of life and death,” his event page reads. “Yet, according to recent estimates, more than 100,000 interpreters and at-risk family members remain in Iraq and 70,000 remain in Afghanistan, each in grave danger.”

He told the Washington Post that leaving interpreters behind would betray both the interpreters and American soldiers.

“We need to evacuate now,” he told CNN in May. “The Taliban have been hunting our interpreters in Afghanistan for 20 years. It’s only intensifying with the withdraw. As we near the end, it’s only going to get worse.”

Proceeds from the book will support the United States Veteran Artists Alliance, a nonprofit that helps veteran writers and artists.

Miska’s visit is something of a reunion, as CUMC’s Pastor Tracy McNeil Wines used to serve at a church he attended.

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