An Afghan interpreter who worked first with U.S. Army Special Forces and then later with British Special Air Service provides an account of his experiences during the Afghan conflict. In his book, Special Forces Interpreter: An Afghan on Operations with the Coalition, the author describes his role in assisting Coalition special operations forces in the fight against the insurgents and terrorists during the long war in Afghanistan.
Eddie Idrees, a pseudonym for security reasons, went on over 500 missions with American Special Forces (SF), the United Kingdom’s Special Air Service (SAS), and the Afghan Commandos. He also served with the Counterinsurgency Academy in Kabul.
The author was born in Kabul in 1985. His father was a colonel in the Afghan army with 30 years service and his mother a university lecturer. He went to elementary school in Afghanistan. His father was forced into exile and his family moved to Pakistan as refugees to avoid the perils of the Afghan civil war. He lived in Pakistan for nine years during which he attended secondary and higher education in Pakistan where he learned English.
Beginning in 2004, he worked with Coalition special operations forces on dangerous missions as an interpreter. He began with the U.S. Army Special Forces, then served at the COIN Academy, and in 2009 he worked for the SAS until 2012.
He describes his first encounter with U.S. Army Green Berets, a SF team that he would later serve with in Kapisa province in 2003 and 2004:
“They looked a bit different from the other American soldiers I had seen so far (mostly, it has to be said, at a distance). They were bigger, they moved in a different way, with less swagger and more economy. They had long beards, wore baseball caps and Oakleys! It looked like they had just come off patrol.”
His book contains accounts of his various missions with the SAS and SF. These ranged from liberating Afghan soldiers from Taliban prisons, being on the ground listening to Taliban radio transmissions, conducting prisoner snatches, and more. Idrees writes about more than just special operations missions. He touches on growing up in Pakistan, the Taliban, the Islamic Emirate, Afghan culture, PTSD, corruption in the Afghan army and police, and life of an interpreter.
Idrees writes about the various types of Afghan interpreters he encountered during his work of the US and UK special forces – many were excellent and some not so much. But overall he has very positive comments of his fellow interpreters:
“Interpreters had an extraordinary role and responsibility in the battle for Afghanistan. We had a unique opportunity to evaluate all sides in the conflict, and often had a special insight into when a battle was fought well and when it failed. The role of the interpreter was so much more varied than mere translation that it is not an exaggeration to say that we played a significant role shaping modern Afghanistan. It was us who stood in the middle between all parties, domestic and international, who fought to contain and defeat the Taliban. Yet interpreter’s efforts were never recognized and the real number of interpreters killed in action was never revealed. Interpreters are the forgotten heroes who played a significant role in the war against terrorism.”
After serving with Coalition SOF for many years, he emigrated to the United Kingdom in 2012. The reason for leaving Afghanistan was so that he and his family could live in safety. In the later part of his book he describes the process of his moving to the United Kingdom – at first as a guest instructor for the SAS in the UK on a visa, then applying for asylum due to death threats (from the Taliban and the Afghan security forces), his time in a UK detention camp, his association with other Afghan immigrants in the United Kingdom, and the dangers of jihadist ideology among some immigrant communities and mosques in the UK.
He has since gained a university degree in psychology and a Masters in international security and terrorism. He now advocates for the Afghan interpreters left behind who face retaliation from the Taliban as well as the dangers of jihadism in the United Kingdom. He also is engaged in the fight against Islamic extremism in the United Kingdom.
The book provides an explanation of the Afghan interpreter’s role and contribution in the fight against the insurgents. It also describes the challenges and threats these brave interpreters face in avoiding being targeted by the Taliban. Those who served with the military in Afghanistan will already be familiar with the important role that Afghan interpreters played during that conflict. For those that haven’t the book will provide insight as to why so many US and UK Afghan war veterans are so forceful in their arguments that the Afghan interpreters should be allowed entry into the United States.
The book by Eddie Idrees, Special Forces Interpreter: An Afghan on Operations with the Coalition, is available as a hardcover or Kindle on Amazon.com. Published by Pen and Sword in April 2021, 146 pages.