Afghan interpreter who helped our troops wins long visa battle, arrives in US

Matthew Zeller and Janis Shinwari

An Afghan translator responsible for saving at least one American life was finally granted a visa and arrived on U.S. shores Tuesday, after more than two long years of bureaucratic red tape.

Matthew Zeller, the soldier who says he owes his life to translator Janis Shinwari, kept in contact with the Afghan as he campaigned for his entry into the United States. During the past two months, Shinwari was in constant danger and was actively sought by the Taliban for aiding the U.S. military, according to Fox News.

Shinwari, his wife and two children arrived at Washington’s Reagan National Airport late Tuesday night. He told Fox News that he’s eager to begin a new life.

“I’m feeling very happy,” Shinwari said. “Now we are in the U.S.,and we will have a good life. No fear of the Taliban. No fear of sending my children to school.”

Fox News reported:

Zeller, who greeted Shinwari at the airport with the Arabic salutation “Assam alaikum,” said he’ll be close to his friend and help him adjust. Shinwari is looking for work as a translator.

“He [Shinwari] will live in Alexandria [Virginia], 10 minutes from me, and is thrilled to finally start his new and very well-earned life in the U.S.” Zeller said.

The interpreter applied for a visa under a special program established in 2009 to benefit those who aid U.S. service members in Iraq and Afghanistan.

According to Fox:

The two met in 2007. A year later, Zeller was on patrol in the Ghazni Province when he and his unit were ambushed by the Taliban. Shinwari was back at the base and went with a team to aid the men, even though it wasn’t his job. Armed with a rifle, he was on the front lines assisting Zeller’s unit when an armed Taliban fighter sneaked up on Zeller. Shinwari shot the enemy before he could harm Zeller, and the two formed a brotherly bond from that point on, Zeller said.

Even with media pressure, the State Department balked. At one point, the agency even approved then revoked Shinwari’s visa, Fox reported.

Dakota Meyer and Fazel

“The U.S. government ended up polygraphing him twice in Kabul — he passed with flying colors each time,” Zeller said.

Both men have been invited to tell their stories to Congress and discuss the visa program.

In a similar set of circumstances, Medal of Honor recipient Dakota Meyer battled the U.S. State Department for more than three years, seeking legal status for his Afghan interpreter, known by the pseudonym “Hafez.”

Meyer was pleased to report that “Hafez,” whose true name is Fazel, finally made it to the United States in September, according to Military Times.

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