Military Translators in Afghanistan: He Said ‘I Like Your Pants’
September 9, 2010
(ChattahBox)—Apparently, much more is lost in translation in Afghanistan than previously thought. Perhaps that explains the bloody mess there. According to a whistleblower lawsuit, about one quarter of the translators sent to Afghanistan, barely know a word of Dari or Pashto. Paul Funk, a former employee of Mission Essential Personnel, a contractor benefiting from $1.4 billion in military contracts for translators, says many of the translators working alongside our soldiers failed their language proficiency exams, but the company still sent them to the battlefield in Afghanistan.
ABC News has the report:
“I determined that someone — and I didn’t know [who] at that time — was changing the grades from blanks or zeros to passing grades,” said Paul Funk, who used to oversee the screening of Afghan linguists for the Columbus, Ohio-based contractor, Mission Essential Personnel. “Many who failed were marked as being passed.” [...]
“There are many cases where soldiers have gone out into the field and have spoken to elders [who] handed messages to the interpreter that a possible ambush three miles up the road would occur. The interpreter cannot read the message and they are attacked,” Funk said. “We’re talking about soldiers lives here.”
MEP denies Funk’s claims, pointing out that the company has received no complaints about its services from military personnel on the battlefield.
How would the soldiers know a tribal elder said, ‘Watch out for al-Qaeda fighters ahead,’ instead of ‘I like your uniforms?”
The company boasts on its website that “Currently, MEP is the US government’s leading provider of translators, interpreters and cultural advisors, with more than 6,000 personnel in 13 countries across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.”
The company website also points out that “MEP is committed to the highest standards of ethics, transparency, and accountability.”
After hearing about whistleblower’s allegations, the Pentagon is now conducting a probe of MEP.
Spc. Daniel Love, U.S. Army/Public Domain, U.S. Army photograph