First Person

When the U.S. Turns Its Back on Allies


Civil War in Afghanistan
Patrick Robert/Sygma via Getty Images

A former U.S. intelligence officer explains what happens to locals who helped the United States when troops leave a conflict zone.

The Trump administration’s decision this month to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria and leave the Kurds to fend off a Turkish onslaught has raised a thorny question for many Americans: What debt does the United States owe to people around the world who helped fight its wars?

U.S. service members have long relied on locals for help with everything from battlefield translating to actual combat in conflicts around the globe. Though the work has put many of these people at risk, few have been allowed to immigrate to the United States.

Phil Caruso, a former military intelligence officer, says the problem is particularly acute when it comes to locals who help the United States gather intelligence. Caruso worked with one particular asset during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2011 and 2014 and then tried to get him out of the country.

He tells the story on First Person this week.

About First Person:  Each week on First Person, we conduct a narrative-driven conversation with one person whose experience illuminates something timely and important about our world. Our guests tend to be people who have participated directly in events, either as protagonists or eyewitnesses. We get them to tell their story, not just offer analysis. First Person is hosted by FP deputy editor Sarah Wildman. Sarah is an award-winning journalist whose stories have appeared in the New York TimesSlate, Vox and the New Yorker online. She is the author of Paper Love: Searching for the Girl My Grandfather Left Behind.  See All Episodes


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