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War is Boring: Interpreter Shortfall Threatens Afghan War Effort

Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010

U.S. Air Force Capt. Tyler Rennell and his Afghan student pilot had a communication problem. On a Nov. 2 training flight near Kandahar, Rennell was trying to teach Capt. Moeed, his Afghan air corps trainee, how to use a GPS device to navigate their Mi-17 helicopter. Moeed didn't seem to understand the device's terminology, and Rennell didn't know how to explain it to him.

Every word that Rennell and Moeed exchanged had to pass through a Pashto-speaking interpreter sitting in the back of the helicopter, listening in via the chopper's intercom. "Tell him," Rennell urged the interpreter, after describing the GPS functions for a second time. The interpreter seemed puzzled as he searched for Pashto words to match the English terms, and it took him several tries before Moeed seemed to understand Rennell's directions. ...

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