Wednesday, December 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Afghan interpreter who helped U.S. deserves a chance

By
From page A6 | October 01, 2013 |

The issue: His visa was revoked at the last minute; now, the Taliban is looking for him

In the unlikely event the U.S. military has to return to Afghanistan, it’s also unlikely that Mohammed Janis Shinwari will be on our side — as he was for seven years as an interpreter, guide, fixer and, in a life-or-death situation for a U.S. soldier, a fighter.

FOR ONE, the Taliban may have killed him. For another, he may well be justified in simply not trusting us to fulfill our promises or keep our word.

Shinwari thought by now he would be safe in the United States with his wife and two children under a State Department visa program designed to help allies. But that program seems to be bidding for a record for bureaucratic sluggishness.

After years of paperwork and lobbying by Army Capt. Matt Zeller, whom The Washington Post identifies as a former Afghanistan analyst at the CIA, the U.S. embassy in Kabul issued Shinwari a visa and he quickly made arrangements to leave Afghanistan.

But at the last minute, Shinwari was summoned to the embassy and his visa revoked, apparently without explanation.

According to the Post, “The rare instances in which applicants are issued visas that are later canceled appear to be triggered by anonymous tips to U.S. counterterrorism hotlines.”

The suspicion is that many of these tips originate with insurgent groups like the Taliban, whose members don’t want Afghan nationals considered traitors to leave the country before they can be killed.

THE SPECIAL Immigrant Visa program hardly operates at a full boil. Of the 8,750 visas authorized by Congress, only about 1,120 have been issued to Afghan interpreters, among those most visible in their aid to Americans.

Zeller told the Post that Shinwari saved his life and that of his men when they were pinned down and outnumbered by a Taliban force by arriving just as the Americans were out of grenades and running low on ammunition.

The State Department runs the visas by multiple agencies to accommodate national security concerns and to determine if the interpreters are “inadmissible to the United States or otherwise ineligible.”

Why don’t we just take a chance on them? After all, they took a much more serious chance on us.

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