US recruits Tamil-speaking troops


The United States, desperately in need of troops for its overseas military adventures, has been more than willing to recruit non-American legal residents who come from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In return for their services in the military — be it in Iraq or Afghanistan – these expatriates are on a fast track to become naturalised American citizens armed with US passports. Those fighting, and in some cases dying, as US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan include Indians, Mexicans, Nepalese, Filipinos and at least one Sri Lankan (who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan recently and was featured in our Plus section).

Last week, the Pentagon announced a new programme — called Military Accessions Vital to the National Interest (MAVNI) — permitting immigrants with special language skills to enlist in the US Army. At the end of basic training in 10 weeks, they have been assured of US citizenship.

Interestingly, the Pentagon is looking for native speakers of 44 world languages, one of them being Tamil (but not Sinhalese). In the programme, Tamil has been listed as a spoken language in South India, not north Sri Lanka. Is this a premonition of Tamil-speaking US troops landing one day in south India in a remotely distant future?


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