Heroic Afghan Translator Waiting Years for US Visa

Monday, 12 Aug 2013 10:48 AM

By Sandy Fitzgeraldn and Wanda Carruthers

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An Afghan translator who helped a Medal of Honor recipient rescue wounded U.S. Marines still is waiting to receive a visa he's been seeking for years.

Marine Cpl. Dakota Meyer, the first living Marine to receive the honor since the Vietnam War, fears for his friend, who remains in Afghanistan and is under daily threats from the Taliban while the State Department has his application on hold, reports The Washington Free Beacon.

“He stood next to me, by my side pretty much the entire time [during the Battle of Ganjgal],” Meyer, 25, told the Free Beacon. "He helped me carry my guys out. If we can’t help get this guy back who sacrificed so much to bring these Americans home, I’m sure he’ll be killed."

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The translator, called by the pseudonym Hafez to protect his identity, applied for a visa more than three years ago. His application was signed by Gen. Joseph Dunford, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, and green-lighted by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, according to Bing West, who co-authored Meyer's account of the battle, "Into the Fire."

But the application has remained stuck at the State Department, where it went for "vetting."

"We've tried to do everything going through the system," Meyer said Monday on 'Fox & Friends.' It's caught in the system, I guess. I don't know why he can't get here. Nobody can give me any answers.

"He wrote me an e-mail the other day and he starts off, he's so considerate of everyone else, but he basically is having to provide security at his house at night for fear he'll be killed, and also doesn't have a job now.

"I've complained to office holders, and the response I got back from that was, 'Well, there is only X amount of visas for that. He should apply for this visa 'cause there is more there. "

Hafez, according to Meyer, was one of just five people in the truck during the Battle of Ganjgal. Four Americans have been awarded medals or are being considered for them. "Yet this guy can't even get a visa," he said.

"People are going to stop helping us. These guys have done so much. I can't tell you how many times an interpreter has kept me out of a bad situation and probably saved lives. You keep doing this and people are going to stop helping you.

“Under the current broken system, a U.S. general in Afghanistan must certify each visa package for an interpreter," West, Meyer's co-author, told the Free Beacon. "But the authority for approval rests in the States with up to six anonymous committees headed by State Department that conduct additional security checks. Their incentive is to never make a single mistake and allow in an Afghan who later commits any sort of crime.

"Thus, while Congress has permitted 5,000 visas, State approves less than 100 each year, he said.

Meyer, Hafez and other U.S. and Afghan allies pushed through enemy fire to rescue wounded comrades during a fierce battle after being ambushed by Taliban fighters on Sept. 8, 2009, outside the village of Ganjgal.

Six Americans and eight Afghan allies were killed in the fight, and Meyer fought his way to the front zone trying to save a four-man team pinned down by the fight. The men were killed, but Meyer carried their bodies to a safe location.

Two other military personnel received the Navy Cross for their actions.

Meyer said his translator told him that if he needed his help, then "if today is my day to die, then that's it. I'll go back with you."

Meyer said told The Free Beacon that it "seems like not anything's going to happen," but he, West, and others will keep pushing for the State Department — which is refusing comment about the case — to approve Hafez' application.

“I’m not going to give up,” Meyer said, adding that he is working on a letter to President Barack Obama. “It wasn’t just Ganjgal. It was every day. [Hafez] showed up to be a team player, you know? He showed up because he cared. He showed up because he was passionate about his country. He showed up to help protect us, as Americans.”






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