Afghan boy trapped in Kabul airport for 9 months reunited with family

Afghan boy trapped in Kabul airport for 9 months reunited with family

A 2 year old Afghan boy has been reunited with his parents in the U.S. after being stuck in Afghanistan for nine months, his father told NBC News.

The parents of Hanzala Hadi had to leave their son behind during the chaos at Kabul airport in August, as U.S. troops withdrew and the Taliban seized control of the country, NBC News previously reported. The boy was then barred from flying out to join them because he did not have an Afghan passport, a requirement set by Qatar, which oversees flights for all U.S.-bound Afghan refugees.

The family appealed for help from the Biden administration and the Qatari government. In January, the Taliban stopped all flights for Afghan refugees bound for the U.S. and resumed flights only about a month ago.

He is now home, said his father, N. Hadi.

The boy landed in New York Wednesday, where he was greeted by his parents.

Hanzala's parents and younger brother have resettled in Philadelphia. His father has a U.S. special immigrant visa because of his work with a private security company that helped train Afghan national police, and as a result his immediate family members automatically qualified for U.S. visas.

On the morning of Aug. 16, N. Hadi and his family headed to Kabul's airport but soon became trapped in the crush of people trying to flee Afghanistan as U.S. troops pulled out.

He and his 2 year-old son, Hanzala, were separated from the rest of the family in the chaos. His wife and his 1 year-old son managed to reach the gate, and Marines let them into the airport.

But when Hadi tried to gain entry, he said, they were turned away. After hours in the heat with no water left, he struggled to hold his son and protect him as Afghans shoved their way to the front and Taliban fighters beat people back.

He was worried about the boy's safety when he pulled back and called one of his brothers for help. He asked his brother to take Hanzala, give him water and keep him safe until they could be reunited inside the airport, he said.

Hadi said I was just trying to save Hanzala's life.

After he handed over the little boy, Hadi made it inside the airport and found his wife and youngest son. His brother tried to take Hanzala to the entrance several times, but the Marines said the gate was closed. Hadi's family flew out of the country four days later.

Other Afghan families trying to resettle in the U.S. or other countries have struggled with the passport requirement.

Since the Taliban returned to power in August, obtaining a passport has become extremely difficult and even dangerous. Afghans who worked for the U.S. military or with other Western-backed organizations face the risk of being detained, beaten or even killed if they visit passport offices, according to refugee and human rights groups.

Refugee organizations took up Hadi's case. He wrote letters asking for help and authorizing his brother to escort Hanzala on a flight to Qatar.

The Biden administration has come under criticism because of its handling of the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and refugees groups and lawmakers have urged the White House to do more to help Afghans with U.S. ties trying to escape Taliban rule.

Washington has a limited ability to influence evacuation efforts, because of the U.S. Embassy closing, the Taliban in control of the ground and the Kabul airport lacking modern equipment, according to administration officials.