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Red Tape, Not Red Carpet, For Afghan Man Who Saved Life Of U.S. Soldier


Former U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only member of his team to survive a Taliban attack in Afghanistan in 2005. His life was saved by an Afghan man, who has since feared for his life.

Former U.S. Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell was the only member of his team to survive a Taliban attack in Afghanistan in 2005. His life was saved by an Afghan man, who has since feared for his life.

An Afghan villager who risked his life to save a dying U.S. Navy SEAL from the Taliban finds himself pleading for help -- and has become disillusioned that no one is answering his calls.

When Mohammad Gulab discovered Navy SEAL Team member Marcus Luttrell shot and bleeding after a deadly firefight with the Taliban in the mountains of northeastern Afghanistan in June 2005, Hollywood was the last thing on his mind.

Gulab's focus was on saving the life of the American soldier, which he did by taking Luttrell to his village and protecting him from militants bent on finishing the job.

In the end, Luttrell was the only member of his team to live to tell about their last military operation, a story that Luttrell chronicled in his book -- made into a hit movie -- called "Lone Survivor."

Gulab, a native of Kunar Province, lived as a marked man in Afghanistan, evading retribution while he dreamed of receiving asylum in the United States.

Now, he tells RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, he has become disillusioned.

"When this film came out, everyone knew my story," he said. "This meant that I had to leave my family and homeland. Even my friends became my enemies. My family and I are in danger of being killed."

WATCH: The trailer for "Lone Survivor"

Gulab has lived in hiding for years. He says he has repeatedly been threatened by the Taliban and that members of the militant group burned down his house and killed his cousin.

New York immigration attorney Michael Wildes has been working to get Gulab asylum in the United States. And earlier this month, Wildes, with the help of American officials, managed to get Gulab and his family to a neutral, undisclosed third country.

"The Department of Homeland Security is currently reviewing his file to determine whether or not they would put in a request with the United Nations to have him relocated to the U.S. based on what he did," Wildes told Fox News on January 19.

It is clear that Gulab is not impressed with the lengthy, bureaucratic process he has encountered -- an ironic twist to a story that hinged on his quick thinking when he saved Luttrell. As Gulab explains, it was a question of honor.

"I knew that saving this American would be a big risk for me and my family," he says. "It wasn't just the militants but also local people who asked me why I had saved an American. But because of our Afghan traditions, I allowed him to stay as a guest. I told the U.S. military that every Afghan must protect his guest."

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    Frud Bezhan

    Frud Bezhan covers Afghanistan and the broader South Asia and Middle East region. Send story tips to bezhanf@rferl.org. 

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