Retired Green Beret John Paluska is working diligently to secure the safety of his former Afghan colleague, Habib, who served as an intelligence sergeant in an elite Afghan National Army Special Operations Command (ANASOC) unit. After the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, Paluska found Habib’s name on Taliban kill lists, prompting an immediate effort to evacuate him. Habib managed to escape to Turkey, where his pathway to safety in the U.S. has been fraught with challenges, including imprisonment and abuse. Paluska’s attempt to help Habib secure a special immigrant visa has been met with bureaucratic obstacles, and Habib’s situation remains perilous.
- John Paluska’s Connection to Habib: Paluska met Habib while serving in Afghanistan’s Ghazni province in 2013. Habib was an integral partner in joint operations with U.S. forces, and they formed a close bond. Paluska has been aiding Habib’s family with money and other necessities since August 2021.
- Habib’s Escape to Turkey: Habib made multiple attempts to escape Afghanistan and the Taliban’s reprisal campaign, facing detention and abuse by Iranian and Turkish forces. He finally arrived in Istanbul but now lives as an illegal refugee, working 12-hour shifts and living in challenging conditions.
- Legal Obstacles to U.S. Entry: Although Paluska thought Habib was eligible for a special immigrant visa (SIV), Afghan military personnel who worked with U.S. forces are not currently eligible. Advocacy groups are calling for change, citing the Afghan Adjustment Act, but progress is slow, and Habib’s pathway to the U.S. remains uncertain.
- U.S. Refugee Admissions Program (USRAP) Inefficiency: While the USRAP could be a potential avenue for Habib, the program is not functioning effectively. Despite accepting thousands of applicants, over 94% remain unprocessed nearly two years after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- Emotional Toll on Paluska: Paluska’s personal investment in Habib’s safety is evident, as he has repeatedly risked his safety and spent significant resources to aid his friend. The lack of support from U.S. government channels has been a crushing disappointment, but Paluska is committed to ensuring that Habib is not forgotten or left to a grim fate.