Matt Zeller:

Five years ago, my Afghan interpreter Janis Shinwari saved my life in a firefight against the Taliban. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to save his as the Taliban placed him on a kill list for his service to the US military.

Afghan and Iraqi interpreters are promised that if they give the United States military one year of “faithful and valuable service”, they and their immediate families will receive Special Immigrant Visas to come to the United States. Janis has served our military for the past nine years. He has more than earned his place in America, so you can imagine our joy when after years of pleading with the State Department, the US embassy in Kabul issued him and his family US visas two weeks ago.

But this past Saturday, everything came crashing down. Janis called me at 2am in a panic. After giving him and his family their salvation, the State Department revoked it only two weeks later without any explanation.

Zeller believes that the Taliban heard about Shinwari’s visa and called up the embassy and told a bunch of lies about him. This is apparently a tactic that was used frequently when Zeller was in country.

Zeller ran for Eric Massa’s seat in NY-29 after Massa imploded – that’s the textbook definition of a thankless, and ultimately pointless, task. I hope he’s more successful getting his former interpreter a visa.

24 replies
  1. 1
    cathyx says:

    You can’t tell me the army can’t just get him out without all that red tape.

  2. 2
    Trollhattan says:

    The hell is the matter with us?

  3. 3
    PeakVT says:

    Blowback, small edition. Denying Shinwari’s visa and others like him will hurt America in the long run. I suppose some bureaucrat’s butt feels safer, though.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    Mary G says:

    America FUCK YEAH!! We don’t have to keep our promises because we are EXCEPTIONAL!!


    Don’t these idiots realize that behavior like this will destroy our international reputation? What a bunch of assholes we’ve voted into office.

  6. 6
    cathyx says:

    @Mary G: Yes, and we all know that spying on everyone hasn’t ruined it already.

  7. 7
    scav says:

    @cathyx: Our rep has been iffy for far far longer than that, there’s just more overt evidence to provide bases for govts to work with — and enough of a changed playing field to make it more attractive to do so openly.

  8. 8
    Cassidy says:

    I stay in touch with my terps on FB. One posts pretty regularly, one about twice a year, and the last I haven’t heard from in a long time. I keep looking.

  9. 9
    Amir Khalid says:

    Is that all it takes for someone to get your US visa yanked: call the US government and make shit up about you? Yeah, that’s going to give people warm fuzzies about helping American forces in their countries.

  10. 10
    piratedan says:

    @Mary G: well “exceptional” is open to a melanin based interpretation…..

  11. 11
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    if the Congress doesn’t get its act together.

    Good luck with that, short of summary executions of teatard scum.

  12. 12
    Villago Delenda Est says:


    This is an intelligent, insightful comment.

    It is rejected as a matter of course by “American Exceptionalism” adherents who are convinced that American shit does not stink.

  13. 13
    Zifnab says:

    So does this mean it is official, and that the terrorists really have won?

  14. 14
    Chyron HR says:


    Yes, it’s truly disgraceful how we’ve started spying on other countries. I miss the days when America was represented abroad by the CIA (Candy and Ice cream Agency).

  15. 15

    You can’t tell me the army can’t just get him out without all that red tape.

    @cathyx: I can. You wouldn’t believe what it takes to get on a military transport plane out of country, even if you’re a full-on servicemember. A foreign national is flat-out not getting on even if he’s escorted by the President himself.

    Not to mention the luggage searches.

    They’d have flown him out commercial with the visa. What I do not understand is why he was fucking around with leaving the country; a guy in his very untenable position should have been ready to leave, and left, the day he got the visa and not one day later. He had 2 weeks.

    ETA: not blaming the guy as such, it’s just…when everyone wants to kill your ass for working with the foreign invaders, you get the fuck out of Dodge.

  16. 16
    Cassidy says:

    @CONGRATULATIONS!: Family. A lot of these guys don’t leave because of the large extended connections of them and their spouse. It’s not a movie. Getting a visa means picking your family up and moving somewhere with nothing but some luggage. That’s not easy on anyone.

  17. 17
    Chris says:


    I suppose some bureaucrat’s butt feels safer, though.

    It sounds like the “dilemma” about releasing prisoners from Gitmo; no one wants to be remembered as The One Who Loosed A Terrible Terrorist On Society. Even if 100% of the prisoners/interpreters are on the level, no one wants to take the chance. Because they know that even if 99% of the prisoners/interpreters are on the level, if there’s so much as one of them that isn’t, everyone will remember that one and forget the rest.

    And yeah, it is fucking retarded as well as immoral.

    I made friends with an Afghanistan veteran this summer who mentioned that her unit’s interpreter was supposed to continue working for DOD after coming to the States, but instead was just let go without explanation – something that pissed her off on two levels, one because it was a friend of hers, two because the military/intelligence/diplomatic community actually really fucking needs people like that simply from a cold material “it helps us do our job” point of view. Apparently the bureaucratic ass-covering trumps that. At least her friend made it to the States before being let go – didn’t realize until I read this article that she was one of the lucky ones.

  18. 18
    LanceThruster says:

    So shocked to hear we don’t have our HUMINT shit together.

    Quelle surprise!

  19. 19
    Chris says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    The visas for Iraqis who helped the US is about to die soon, if the Congress doesn’t get its act together.

    I guess the visas are going to die soon, then.

    Unfun fact related to this that I remember reading a few years ago; Iraqis and Afghans seeking asylum in the United States have their applications automatically turned down if they’ve ever paid ransom to a terrorist group to save the life of a loved one (hostage taking is a very popular way to fund oneself, it appears), because they’re considered to have “materially supported terrorism.” That’s right; having your family threatened by the Taliban or AQI actually makes it less likely that America will help you.

    (Compare and contrast, if it amuses you, with the slap on the wrist Corporate Persons like HSBC or Chiquita get for financing terrorism).

  20. 20
    Roger Moore says:


    Compare and contrast, if it amuses you, with the slap on the wrist Corporate Persons like HSBC or Chiquita get for financing terrorism

    Or Rep. Pete King, for that matter. Oh wait, the IRA are white, so they’re freedom fighters, not terrorists.

  21. 21
    soonergrunt says:

    @cathyx: No, they can’t. They can verify that he worked for the Army and that he did so with honor and diligence, but issuing visas is specifically a responsibility of the State Department.

  22. 22
    John M. Burt says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: The prospect of someone’s children being murdered by terrorists solely because of Teabaggers throwing a tantrum in Congress puts the prospect of a mere government shutdown in perspective.

    We really, REALLY need to get rid of these people, and keep their diseased party out of power permanently.

  23. 23
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Is that all it takes for someone to get your US visa yanked: call the US government and make shit up about you?

    Sadly, that seems to be how about 50 percent of the folks in Gitmo ended up there — they were turned in for a ransom payment but almost certainly didn’t have any Taliban or Al Qaeda connections.

  24. 24
    gene108 says:

    On immigration matters the Obama Administration sucks salted donkey dicks.

    Better 1,000 innocent people have their lives totally fucked by USCIS for various capricious and arbitrary reasons, than heaven forbid the State Department issues a visa to a terrorist.

    EDIT: I think the interpreter is lucky. Imagine if he landed at the airport and the Custom and Border Patrol agent decided, “fuck it, he’s a raghead terrorist” and sent him back to Afghanistan? At least he didn’t waste a plane ride.

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