Why is the US army interested in translating Kurdish-Sorani, Dari?

The current machine can only translate two languages – Pashto and Iraqi Arabic

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For many years, the United States army have used local Afghans, Iraqis – most of them young educated college graduates – as translators as a means to bridge the communication gaps during the wars in both countries.

More recently, they have replaced those young translators with machines that are able to translate on the spot. Since 2011, the army has been rolling them out the machine – named as the Machine Foreign Language Translation System (MFLTS).

The machine can only translate two languages – Pashto and Iraqi Arabic – and are looking to add Dari and Kurdish-Sorani as additional languages.

The US army have gone so far as to place the project on their Federal Business Opportunities website, where potential vendors can join and bid to bring it to light.

“Unfortunately there aren’t enough linguists to go around and not all of them can put on a rucksack and go up and down mountains in Afghanistan and follow troops around, so we have to fill that capability gap with these devices,” MFLTS’s product director Michael Beaulieu explained in the blog for Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors in 2011.

One reason behind why the US army is looking to add Kurdish-Sorani language to the translation machines is to ease their communications with Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the battle to regain Mosul from ISIS.

Over the past 24 months, the US has been leading a coalition in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, specifically training 12,000 Peshmerga forces along with 25,000 Iraqi security forces, 8,500 counterterrorism forces in Iraq and 6,000 federal police.