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World Will America abandon Faridoon Hazeen?

13:30  25 october  2021
13:30  25 october  2021 Source:   washingtonexaminer.com

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Faridoon Hazeen does not sleep well. He checks his phone at all hours, monitoring Twitter for the latest developments in the Taliban’s campaign to seize Afghanistan.

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But it is the beheading of Sohail Pardis that cuts the deepest. Pardis was taken from a car and murdered by terrorists for his service as a coalition interpreter. Hazeen fears Pardis's story could soon be his own. In turn, Hazeen is desperately hoping for a life-saving email or phone call from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Hazeen deserves much more from America.

In November 2012, Hazeen began working as an Afghan legal consultant at the Justice Center in Parwan. He was contracted by PAE government services to serve the U.S. Department of Corrections Systems Support Program. Every day for 17 months, Hazeen sat across the table from captured terrorists. Working with legal teams composed of Americans and Australians, Hazeen would help investigate and deal with legal documents of detainees with ties to al Qaeda, the Haqqani Network, and the Taliban. Every day, he would take an average of 20 detainees to court sessions. He knew where they were captured and why.

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Indeed, Hazeen was involved in the cases of more than 5,000 individuals prosecuted by the Afghan government. Roughly 1,700 of these detainees were connected to the most dangerous terrorist activities. By showing his face in those courtroom sessions, Hazeen knew he was putting himself at risk. But Hazeen was motivated by his commitment to serve his country and American efforts to help the Afghan people.

A husband and father of two small children at the time, Hazeen said his work caused grave anxiety for his wife. However, it was a sacrifice that they believed was worth making: "They would worry about me, what has happened to me, and why I would come home later sometimes. But we had to stick to our commitment, and we had to deal with it."

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However, many of the terrorists prosecuted during Hazeen’s involvement as a legal consultant at Bagram Airfield have now been released due to the U.S.- Taliban peace deal. According to Hazeen, the Taliban know who he is. Of the 50 legal consultants and translators working on the contract, he is the only one left in Afghanistan awaiting a special immigrant visa. "I have only two options, which are not in my hand," Hazeen said. "Either wait for the special immigrant visa or wait for the Taliban to kill me. That is it. That’s my situation."

For over 7 1/2 years, Hazeen has been working through the special immigrant visa application process, making him one of the more than 18,000 Afghans in limbo. The Biden administration has authorized $100 million in emergency funds for Afghan refugees. More than 2,500 Afghan contracted employees and their families are to be flown to Fort Lee, Virginia. The House of Representatives has also passed a bill to add 8,000 special immigrant visas. But still, Hazeen’s hundreds of emails to the National Visa Center and the U.S. Embassy in Kabul go unanswered.

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"It is really unimaginable, to be honest, not only for me, but also for my wife," Hazeen said. "She’s kind of in a desperate situation. She can’t sleep well. She can’t eat well. She’s just thinking about me more than I am."

The last correspondence Hazeen received from the Embassy was on July 9, 2018. He was informed that his appeal denial of his Special Immigrant Visa application still stood. It was in the middle of June 2016 when Hazeen was notified that his chief of mission approval for a special immigrant visa was withdrawn. At the time, Hazeen was serving as a legal adviser for the Justice Sector Support Program — another program funded by the United States Department of State. The letter, which stated withdrawal due to a lack of faithful services, and dishonest services, left Hazeen not only disheartened, but shocked. Passing his SIV interview in April 2015, 16 months after beginning his application process, Hazeen received his yellow card from the U.S. Embassy. Hazeen said he believed it would be only a matter of time before he received his special immigrant visa.

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After all, besides his SIV, all Hazeen needed was a medical examination. Instead, Hazeen had his yellow card seized following a routine security screening for his contract with the Justice Sector Support Program.

What happened?

Hazeen recounts taking a polygraph test more than a dozen times. According to Hazeen, the tests were conducted by an American polygrapher. An Afghan translator was also in the room. Hazeen said the polygrapher was an elderly man who said at the beginning that he had hearing difficulties. Throughout the interview, Hazeen said the man would angrily tell him to speak louder. Hazeen failed the polygraph test portion of his security background. His failed polygraph test would override Hazeen’s work at Bagram Airfield, his letter of recommendation from Erik Guenther — a man recognized with prestige by U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham. Hazeen was terminated from his contract, and soon after, his chief of mission approval for his SIV was withdrawn.

"There’s a reason that polygraphs aren’t admitted in court, and that’s because they aren’t always accurate," Guenther said. Certainly, it seems absurd that a polygrapher with poor hearing and unprofessional demeanor would be tasked with this most exigent of responsibilities. He may have been a contractor working post-retirement from government service. In a statement to the Washington Examiner, the State Department ignored questions related to whether a polygrapher with hearing difficulties could provide professionally competent service. Instead, the State Department insisted that polygraphs are not a part of the SIV qualification process. Seeing as Hazeen's polygraph experience is the causal factor behind his SIV crisis, his experience would appear to bear the State Department's statement to be untrue.

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Regardless, for Hazeen, it is a life and death matter.

While in Afghanistan, Guenther served as an adviser for Hazeen in both the Corrections System Support Program and the Justice Sector Support Program. It was through Guenther’s recommendation that Hazeen began working for the Justice Sector Support Program.

"He is really sharp," Guenther told me. "I could count on him for complicated legal principles and educating the Afghan lawyers at Bagram. He has a great sense of humor and is kind. I am happy to have worked with him." Clark Magee served as a paralegal at the Justice Center in Parwan with Hazeen as well. Like Guenther, Magee shared his sentiment for Hazeen. "Polygraphs be damned," Magee said. "I’d be happy to live next to Faridoon." Serving as a compliance and anti-corruption attorney for 10 months in Afghanistan, Army veteran Brett Sander never met Hazeen. However, Hazeen has now become one of Sander’s clients fighting for an SIV.

Starting a new special immigrant visa application in early March of this year, Sander recognized the time constraints that Hazeen faced. In the hopes of garnering the attention of President Joe Biden, Sander created an online petition on Faridoon’s behalf. "Faridoon is representative of the America’s Rule of Law Mission in Afghanistan," Sander said. "Leaving him behind is dishonorable and threatens our future credibility."

While his fight for Faridoon just began a few months ago, Sander said he’s been working with another one of his clients, who requested to remain anonymous, since 2019. Similar to Hazeen, Sander’s client began his SIV application in 2017, but he received a chief of mission denial in 2019. In May 2019, Sander submitted an appeal on his client's behalf, including additional paperwork. The 42-page appeal included photocopies of his client’s ID badges as well as supporting documents from Afghanistan Integrated Support Services, a State Department contract. For months, his client’s appeal status was still unknown. Sander reached out to the offices of both Sens. Ben Cardin and Jeanne Shaheen, ranking and senior members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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In September 2019, Sander and his client were notified by the National Visa Center that his case was now with the Chief of Mission designate in the U.S. Embassy to Afghanistan. To this day, the client's chief of mission status is still pending. For two years, Sander and a colleague from a prominent Baltimore law firm have been corresponding with staffers in both offices. However, in terms of assuring that members of Congress are held accountable for their promise to adjudicate applications to chief of missions within 120 days (according to a February 5, 2020 ruling by a federal judge), both offices have failed to make Sander’s client a priority.

Email exchanges between caseworker Chris Pumphrey in Cardin’s office and Sander reveal that from May to September 2020, there were no updates regarding Sander’s client’s chief of mission application. Every month, Sander would request for Cardin’s office to call the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, where the chief of mission application was located. Cardin’s office would reach out to the National Visa Center to receive status on Sander’s client. Sander said it was quite frustrating because the National Visa Center would not play any role in issuing his client's approval or denial.

Sander has reached out not only to the caseworkers in both offices but to Cardin’s chief of staff Chris Lynch, Algene Sajery, and Bryan Maxwell, former senior defense policy adviser for Shaheen. "I do believe the senators could have put more direct pressure on the Embassy." Sander's client moves between several houses every couple of months to avoid Taliban detection. Last year, he said his family received a fruit basket that was poisoned, according to a botanist’s report.

That takes us back to Hazeen.

"As soon as you start working for any member of the international community, especially the U.S. government, you are called a spy," Hazeen said. "People do not care what kind of job you are doing, what kind of service you are providing to Afghans. The only thing they care about is that this guy is working for the U.S. government. There is simply a stamp on your forehead." A target on the back.

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Hazeen considered taking his family to Pakistan, but with COVID-19 spiking, the flights have stopped. Further complicating matters, Pakistan is not accepting refugees and asylum-seekers. Despite all the stress, Hazeen continues to work on countercorruption cases for UNISHKA, a social purpose corporation based in Juneau, Alaska. Hazeen has been working on and off for the anti-corruption investigative corporation since meeting the president of the corporation, Jeffrey Coonjohn, at Bagram Airfield in 2013. In vetting all of his employees, Coonjohn said UNISHKA follows the state department’s lead with the RAM system. "If people like me aren’t issued a Visa, it means the United States government does not care about the situation of the people who used to work harmoniously and faithfully for the U.S. government," Hazeen said. "I’m sure the U.S. government knows better than us that the Afghan government is not providing any kind of protection to the people like me."

Put simply, Hazeen, and the thousands of Afghans like him, deserve much better from this nation.

Elaine Mallon is a fellow at the National Journalism Center. She studies international relations and journalism at Michigan State University.

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Tags: Opinion, Beltway Confidential, Blog Contributors, War in Afghanistan, Afghanistan, Taliban, Visas, Refugees

Original Author: Elaine Mallon

Original Location: Will America abandon Faridoon Hazeen?

Madison Hubbell, Zachary Donohue win final Skate America of their careers, tie win streak record .
Teammates and training mates Madison Chock and Evan Bates were a close second with their alien meets astronaut free dance.The decorated ice dancers have previously proclaimed that this 2021-2022 Olympic season will be the final one of their lengthy careers, and so far it is a dream.

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