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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 10th June 2016 > WHEN HEROES COLLIDE COLLID

WHEN HEROES COLLIDE COLLID

AFTER AN AFGHAN VILLAGER SAVED NAVY SEAL MARCUS LUTTRELL FROM HEAVILY ARMED MILITANTS, THERE WAS A BEST-SELLER, A HIT MOVIE AND VOWS OF ETERNAL FRIENDSHIP. SO WHY IS THE AFGHAN NOW BLASTING HOLES IN LUTTRELL’S STORY?

THEY TRIED TO KILL HIM IN THE MORNING. THEY TRIED TO KILL HIM AT NIGHT. THEY TRIED AS HE BUMPED OVER THE ROAD IN A SILVER SEDAN, KILLING HIS NEPHEW WITH A BULLET TO THE BRAIN. THEY TRIED WITH A SNIPER. THEY TRIED WITH A BOMB. THEY TRIED WITH A GRENADE OUTSIDE HIS DAUGHTER’S BEDROOM, THE BLAST

SCREEN HEROES: Luttrell, left, with Mark Wahlberg, who portrays him in Lone Surivor, at the movie’s L.A. premiere in 2013.

hurling shrapnel into her leg. In a rural valley, along a desolate trail, in the doorway of his modest home—in all these places the Taliban tried to kill Mohammad Gulab in northeastern Afghanistan. But somehow he survived every ambush, every assault.

THE DEPARTED: Navy SEALs Michael Murphy left, and Matthew Axelson were killed during Operation Red Wings; Luttrell was the only man in his team who survived.

Gulab’s troubles began in June 2005, after he saved a Navy SEAL from a Taliban-linked militia. The SEAL, Marcus Luttrell, went on to write a best-selling memoir, Lone Survivor, which later became a hit film. And his newfound fame proved to be lucrative. The Afghan timber worker didn’t fare so well. With a Taliban bounty on his head, he had to leave his village, and he’s spent the past decade on the run, while trying to protect his family.

UNSAFE HAVEN: Wahlberg, with Ali Suliman, who played Gulab in the movie version of Lone Survivor.
FROM LEFT: ALAMY; R.M. SCHNEIDERMAN FOR NEWSWEEK

The most frightening attack came on a hot night in the fall of 2014. Gulab was asleep in his room when a bomb exploded by the front gate of his home. The blast woke his children, who ran to a neighbor’s house for safety while Gulab and his wife grabbed their Kalashnikovs and climbed onto their roof. Under a canopy of stars, they squatted behind a barricade and fired toward the gate, their bullets sparking in the darkness when they hit stones. The Taliban returned fire, but Gulab and his wife had the high ground. The standoff lasted for hours until, with daylight approaching, the militants retreated and Gulab and his wife climbed down, still terrified.

WHO SAVES THE SAVIOR? Gulab, in his apartment in Fort Worth, Texas, holds a photo of Luttrell taken during their confrontation with a Taliban-linked militia.

Gulab decided he had to flee Afghanistan, go to Europe or America. But how? Paying smugglers was too dangerous and expensive. He had friends in the States and contacts in Kabul, but no one seemed able to help. So as he stood in his yard, watching the sun slowly rise, Gulab finally lost something the Taliban hadn’t been able to take from him in nearly a decade of attacks—he lost hope. Gulab had saved the life of a Navy SEAL, but no one, he felt, would ever come to his rescue.

TEAM NEVER QUIT: Since writing his memoir, Luttrell began a foundation and has become an entrepreneur, starting his own lines of clothing and ammunition.
FROM LEFT: BAPTISTE FENOUIL/REA/REDUX; ROBERT NICKELSBERG/GETTY

TO BE A FRIEND IS FATAL

IN HIS BOOK,To Be a Friend Is Fatal, Kirk Johnson, a former U.S. Agency for International Development worker in Fallujah, describes the wishful thinking and twisted logic that left so many U.S. allies stranded in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the mid-2000s, as insurgents stepped up their attacks against “collaborators,” Johnson began compiling a list of at-risk raqis. America, he felt, had a moral obligation to bring them to the states, so he started a nonprofit and began working with lawmakers. In 2008, in a rare display of bipartisanship, Congress created a system to bring over Iraqi and Afghan translators, office workers and other American allies. In the next five years, the Special Immigrant Visa program created tens of thousands of slots for necks, among other things, have left many of those slots unfilled. With the rise of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), the program has seen massive backlogs. The U.S has stopped accepting Iraqi applications, and Afghans now face stiffer requirements. “This is the most rigorous review on the face of the planet,” Johnson says. “We are looking for ways to say no to them. No one wants their signature on the next 9/11 hijacker’s visa papers…. People are dying waiting in line. History,” Johnson adds, “will not judge us very kindly.”

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About Newsweek International

After an Afghan villager saved U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell from heavily armed militants, there was a best-seller, a hit movie and vows of eternal friendship. So why is the Afghan now blasting holes in Luttrell’s story?
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