The "rescued" infant in Afghanistan was left behind by US soldiers
It turns out that the same arms of US soldiers who lifted the infant above surging crowds left him stranded at the airport, only to be found by an Afghan who took him in.
Amid the chaos of the US evacuation from Afghanistan, an infant boy was handed in desperation to a US soldier across an airport wall. He was found and reunited with his relatives in Kabul on Saturday.
But what is the story behind all this?
Everybody thought the baby made it to the so-called "Land of Liberty" and was living the stable life he would have never had back in his homeland, Afghanistan.
Why did they think so?
The New York Times, at the time, posted a picture of the baby "being lifted above surging crowds into the arms of US soldiers on blast walls. It was not clear if the parents had made it to safety," insinuating that the infant actually had.
The images are heart-wrenching: in the chaos outside Kabul’s international airport, footage of babies and children being lifted above surging crowds into the arms of U.S. soldiers on blast walls. It was not clear if their parents had made it to safety. https://t.co/eoCINkdqYd pic.twitter.com/GyHJuQZI2Q— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 20, 2021
It turns out that the same arms of the US soldier who lifted the infant above surging crowds left him stranded at the airport, only to be found by an Afghan who took him in.
Baby Sohail's ordeal
Sohail Ahmadi was only two months old when he was handed over to a US soldier on August 19 as thousands of people fled Afghanistan when it fell to the Taliban.
The baby was found in Kabul by a 29-year-old taxi driver named Hamid Safi who found him abandoned and stranded at the airport, so he took him home to raise as his own, according to an exclusive Reuters story published in November with his pictures. Little did Safi know that baby Sohail was left behind by the US soldiers who were hailed in the western media as his "saviors".
After more than seven weeks of negotiating and pleading and brief detention by Taliban police, Safi finally returned the child to his grandfather and other relatives still in Kabul. They said they would now try to reunite him with his parents and siblings, who were evacuated to the United States months ago.
How did baby Sohail get lost?
During the summer's tumultuous Afghan evacuation, the boy's father, Mirza Ali Ahmadi, who worked as a security guard at the US embassy, and his wife Suraya, feared their son would be crushed in the crowd as they approached the airport gates en route to a flight to the US.
In early November, Ahmadi told Reuters that in his desperation that day, he handed Sohail over the airport wall to a uniformed soldier, fully expecting he would soon make it the remaining five meters (15 feet) to the entrance to reclaim him.
Just then, Taliban forces pushed the crowd back, and it would be another half an hour before Ahmadi, his wife, and their four other children could enter. But by then the baby was nowhere to be found.
Safi finds Sohail
Safi stated that he found Sohail alone and crying on the ground. He took the baby home to his wife and children after claiming he tried unsuccessfully to locate the baby's parents. Safi has three daughters of his own and stated that his mother's last wish before she died was for him to have a son.
At that point, he made a decision, "I'm keeping this child. If his family can be found, I will return him to them. If that doesn't work, I'll raise him myself," he told Reuters in an interview in November.
Following the publication of the Reuters story about the missing child, some of Safi's neighbors, who had noticed his return from the airport months earlier with a baby, recognized the photos and commented on a translated version of the article about his whereabouts.
Ahmadi asked his relatives still in Afghanistan, including his father-in-law Mohammad Qasem Razawi, 67, who lives in the north-eastern province of Badakhshan, to seek out Safi and ask him to return Sohail to the family.
Indeed, in the presence of the police, and amid lots of tears, the baby was finally returned to his relatives.
Now Ahmadi and his family, who resettled in an apartment in Michigan in early December, hope Sohail will soon be brought to the US. “We need to get the baby back to his mother and father. This is my only responsibility,” his grandfather said. “My wish is that he should return to them."