Ex-Royal Marine WILL airlift staff and 200 animals from Kabul

Ex-Royal Marine Pen Farthing WILL be able to airlift staff and 200 animals from Kabul as his rescue mission on chartered flight is given green light amid bid to get 4,000 Britons and Afghans to safety in next 36 hours

  • Ex-Royal Marine Pen Farthing will be able to airlift 69 staff and 200 animals from Kabul airport
  • He was rebuked by Ben Wallace yesterday for complaining UK forces were blocking his charter flight
  • But a video of the Vauxhall entering the cargo jet prompted Ricky Gervais to claim he was ‘prioritising a car’
  • The former Royal Marine had privately funded a commercial flight but says he now can’t get it into Kabul
  • Defence Secretary had insisted he is not prepared to ‘prioritise pets over people’ in the evacuation 

A former Royal Marine who claims the Defence Secretary blocked a charter flight to get 200 animals and 69 people working at his Kabul animal shelter out of Afghanistan has been given fresh hope after Ben Wallace gave the green light for the evacuation. 

Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, the founder of Nowzad, said Boris Johnson had approved a flight he had crowdfunded to evacuate cats and dogs as well as his staff – but that Mr Wallace had blocked the evacuation by refusing to sign air signs needed for it to land at Kabul airport.

Yesterday the Defence Secretary insisted that the major problem with evacuations from the Afghan capital has been getting British nationals past Taliban checkpoints surrounding Hamid Karzai International Airport after Kabul fell to the jihadists earlier this month. 

But a Sky News video of a Vauxhall hatchback entering a military cargo jet prompted a counter-blast from animal rights activists including the comedian Ricky Gervais and actor Peter Egan, who accused the Ministry of Defence of caring more about a car than ‘sentient animals’.

Mr Wallace has now announced in a series of tweets that if Mr Farthing arrived at the airport with his staff and animals, officials would allow them to leave on the chartered aircraft. 

Britain is working ‘full speed’ to rescue 4,000 Britons and Afghan allies still stuck in Kabul over the next 36 hours after Joe Biden sparked fury by swatting away demands from Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders to extend the August 31 withdrawal deadline.

‘Now that Pen Farthing’s staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorised MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at (Kabul airport). At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane,’ Mr Wallace tweeted.

‘If he does not have his animals with him he and his staff can board an RAF flight. I have been consistent all along, ensuring those most at risk are processed first and that the limiting factor has been flow THROUGH to airside NOT airplane capacity.’ 

Dominic Raab this morning admitted that the evacuation mission is in its final desperate stages after the US President ‘point blank’ rejected calls from Britain, France and Germany for a delay, arguing the risks of attack from the Taliban and ISIS were too high.   

The American decision not to extend the deadline for withdrawal means the airlift will have to stop tomorrow or Friday at the latest, to give Western forces time to wrap up their deployment. 

But there are already claims that the Taliban is stopping fleeing Afghans from getting into the airport, and the coming days will see the ‘maximum danger’ for troops with fears the regime will want to create a ‘Saigon’ moment and threats of a terrorist ‘spectacular’. 

It comes as:

  • Former military chiefs and Tory MPs have urged the Prime Minister to reverse military cuts saying the Afghanistan crisis shows they were a mistake; 
  • Mr Raab denied he was cavorting on a Crete beach while Afghanistan descended into chaos, saying the sea had been closed at his luxury holiday resort due to a ‘red notice’; 
  • Mr Johnson pleaded with the Taliban to continue to let people out of Afghanistan after August 31 and announced a ‘roadmap’ for dealing with the regime;
  • Reports on the ground in Kabul suggested Taliban fighters were stopping Westerners getting to Kabul airport after the extremist group announced a ban on Afghans leaving the country;
  • President Joe Biden told the Taliban he will stick to the August 31 withdrawal deadline if they allow free access to Kabul airport.

Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, the founder of Nowzad, said Boris Johnson had approved a flight he had crowdfunded to evacuate cats and dogs as well as his staff – but that Ben Wallace had blocked the evacuation by refusing to sign air signs needed for it to land at Kabul airport

Yesterday the Defence Secretary insisted that the major problem with evacuations from the Afghan capital has been getting British nationals past Taliban checkpoints surrounding Hamid Karzai International Airport after Kabul fell to the jihadists earlier this month

UK Armed Forces who continue to take part in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul airport

Mr Wallace has now performed a U-turn, announcing in a series of tweets early today that if Mr Farthing arrived at the airport with his staff and animals, officials would allow them to leave on the chartered aircraft

The UK is working ‘full speed’ to rescue 4,000 Britons and Afghan allies still stuck in Kabul over the next 36 hours after Joe Biden sparked fury by refusing to extend the deadline for troops leaving.

Dominic Raab admitted the evacuation mission is in its final desperate stages after the US president ‘point blank’ rejected G7 calls for a delay, arguing the risks of attack from the Taliban and ISIS were too high.

The decision means the airlift will have to stop tomorrow or Friday at the latest, to give Western forces time to wrap up their deployment.

But there are already claims that the Taliban is stopping fleeing Afghans from getting into the airport, and the coming days will see the ‘maximum danger’ for troops with fears the regime will want to create a ‘Saigon’ moment and threats of a terrorist ‘spectacular’.

In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Raab said the UK is working ‘as fast as we can’ to maximise the number of people who can flee, saying 2,000 were taken to safety in the last 24 hours and almost all single-nationality Britons are now out.

‘We will use every hour and day we’ve got to maximise that throughput to get as many of those residual cases out,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programe.

‘We’re going to keep going for every day and every hour that we’ve got left.’

Mr Raab declined to say when the last UK flight will be leaving.

In response to the anger, an MoD source said yesterday: ‘The car was a civilian armoured vehicle (probably part of the UK Embassy fleet).

‘Priority on all flights is given to passengers, but flights have to take off in their allocated time-slot to keep traffic moving, so on the flight featured by Sky, there were 134 people processed at the time allocated for take-off, and because that left some room, it was filled with cargo, including the car.’

Mr Gervais wrote in response to the video: ‘@PenFarthing is brave and kind. Such honour should be rewarded. He’s still trying to save others in the face of grave danger. He shouldn’t be left behind. And they rescued a f*****g car? Shame.’ 

Actor Peter Egan added: ‘Can it be possible that ⁦@BWallaceMP⁩ is ok about airlifting a car but not sentient animals!!’ 

Mr Farthing, 52, has complained about being ‘left to fend for myself’ after organising the flight for his 25 Afghan staff as well as the charity’s dogs and cats. He announced the British Government granted visas for all of his staff and their dependents.

But Mr Wallace – himself a former soldier – told LBC that Mr Farthing’s claim about being abandoned by the MoD was ‘b******s’.

In a round of interviews, the clearly frustrated politician said that while the animal charity boss had done ‘amazing’ work, all the plane would achieve if it landed in Kabul was to ‘block the airfield’ and ‘sit there empty’.

‘There is a confusion, I am afraid some of the campaigners have latched on to the fact they have chartered a plane, as if this somehow is the magic wand,’ he said. 

‘The magic wand is whether people can get through Kabul through the Taliban checkpoints and then through the 3,000-plus people, some of whom are waiting in front of the queue because they are under real threat, direct threat right now from the Taliban.’

He added: ‘I am not prepared to prioritise, for example, pets over people.’ 

Mr Wallace said that Mr Farthing himself could get through the gates and his staff were entitled to refuge in the UK, but he could not ‘guarantee’ they would be airlifted ‘in this window’. 

An MoD spokesman said: ‘We are aware of reports around vehicles being loaded onto flights leaving Afghanistan. ‘Cleared passengers are always loaded as an absolute priority and any spare capacity is used for operational freight. No flight has left Kabul empty.

‘In the last 24 hours, 9 flights have left with over 1800 people on board.’  

Celebrities including actor Mr Gervais and Dragons Den star Deborah Meaden, who back the Nowzad charity, today slammed the Government’s attitude towards evacuating animals. 

Writing on Twitter, Gervais said: ‘Dear stupid c**ts saying we shouldn’t put animals before people.. 1. The animals go in the hold where people can’t go. 2. This is an extra, privately funded plane that will allow MORE people to be saved. #OperationArk’.


Pen Farthing is founder of the Nowzad charity which he set up after befriending a stray dog while serving in Helmand in 2006

Former Royal Marine Commando Pen Farthing has been working with his Norwegian wife Kaisa Helene (above) and their team in Kabul

Mr Farthing with dogs RPG and Jena, who were destined to die from starvation or dog fights in Afghanistan until he stepped in

Celebrities including actor Ricky Gervais and Dragons Den star Deborah Meaden, who back the Nowzad charity, slammed the Government’s attitude towards evacuating animals

European fury at Biden: Humiliated Boris Johnson pleads with Taliban to continue to let people out of Afghanistan AFTER August 31 and announces a ‘roadmap’ for dealing with new Islamist government – amid anger from France and Germany 

Boris Johnson today pleaded with the Taliban to allow people to leave Afghanistan after the US has completed its withdrawal on August 31.

Mr Johnson, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel used a G7 summit to urge Joe Biden to extend the deadline to provide more time for airlifts from Kabul airport to take place.

But the entreaties appear to have fallen on deaf ears with the Mr Biden expected to stick to his exit date for US forces.

A humiliated Mr Johnson said after the summit that the UK will continue to conduct airlifts from the country ‘right up until the last moment’ as he called on the Taliban to guarantee ‘safe passage’ for anyone who wants to leave after August 31.

The Taliban today repeated blood-curdling warnings of consequences if there was an attempt to extend the deadline as the group said no-one would be permitted to leave.

‘All people should be removed prior to that date,’ a spokesman told a press conference in the capital. ‘After that we do not allow them. We will take a different stance.’

According to Reuters, the Pentagon told Mr Biden the risks to American forces are too high if they defy the Taliban.

Meaden added: ‘So.. Pete Quentin (Tory candidate for Camberwell and Peckham) why on Earth would you put these lives at risk? Everything arranged and you pull it??? Are we dithering with peoples lives @PenFarthing #nowzad #operationark’. 

The comments came after Mr Farthing told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘Today we still do not have anything from the MoD, in fact they cut me off. 

‘I did have an emergency line that I could call if I was in trouble or needed to report something that’s going on but that’s been cut so I’ve been literally left now on my own in enemy-held territory. I just can’t get my head around that.

‘We’ve got a privately-funded plane that can take 250 passengers out, 69 of them would be me and the staff, but we’ve got an empty cargo hold. I don’t understand the problems here, I’m not asking the MoD to give me a plane I just need to have a call sign.’

Mr Farthing claimed he had not received documents from the Home Office that would allow his staff to get past Taliban checkpoints and leave the country.  

But Mr Wallace told Sky News: ‘He could get through the gates as a British passport holder. He was called forward on Friday and I recommend he takes that.

‘His workforce have been offered, as entitled personnel, places and they will be able to be called forward, but I can’t guarantee in this window they will be processed onto aircraft, all I can say is they qualify.’

He added on LBC radio: ‘I have some really desperate people in that queue who are really under threat of life and death, and if we don’t get them out their future is very, very bleak. 

‘I simply have to prioritise those people over pets, very important. It doesn’t mean we don’t care about animals, we’re all an animal loving nation.’ 

Mr Farthing previously managed to get his 30-year-old wife Kaisa out of the country and shared a shocking image appearing to show her on a near-empty evacuation flight. 

In an interview with Sky News, he said: ‘I can’t get into the airport because the MoD won’t talk to me. That is beyond the pale, somebody somewhere is playing with people’s lives.’

Mr Farthing goes on to describe the emotional rollercoaster he and his staff were forced to go through today. 

He said: ‘You’ve not idea of the elation in our office this morning when our staff knew [they could come to the UK].’

But the joy his staff felt soon turned to despair after Mr Farthing said the Ministry of Defence refused to let his privately funded commercial plane land in the Kabul military airfield.  

He said: ‘It’s a privately funded aircraft, I only want to take out 69 people and the cargo hold is empty so we’re going to put dogs and cats into it.

‘No taxpayer money will go into this. We’ve got 130 spare seats on that aircraft we can fill with people entitled to come to Britain.’

He went on to claim the reason his flight had been blocked is that the Ministry of Defence doesn’t want people to see animals getting on a flight. 

While holding back tears he added: ‘I am behind enemy lines now, the Taliban are here. I cannot get into the airport because the MoD won’t talk to me. They’re playing with people’s lives.

‘I wasn’t frightened because I knew I had this lifeline but that’s just been cut off. I am now on my own here.’

He previously managed to get his 30-year-old wife Kaisa out of the country and shared a shocking image appearing to show her on a near-empty evacuation flight (pictured)

Outraged social media users have taken to Twitter to vent their frustrations at the Government’s alleged actions

Thousands of Afghans could be left behind in Kabul as ministers push to extend the deadline for the last British evacuation flight beyond Tuesday. Pictured: British citizens catching a flight earlier this week

How a deadly deployment in Afghanistan’s Helmand province turned Royal Marine into animal saviour when he realised he couldn’t leave his new canine pal behind

By JACK WRIGHT FOR MAILONLINE

Tough guy Paul Farthing arrived with the men of Kilo Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines in the war torn town of ‘Now Zad’ in Helmand Province – one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan – in 2006.

Tasked with providing stability for the local people in the early years of the Western intervention triggered by the 9/11 attacks in the US, the Marines soon realised it wasn’t just local people who needed their help – but stray dogs. 

The idea of an animal clinic was first born when Farthing – a Royal Marine Sergeant who goes by the nickname Pen – broke up a dog fight, a popular ‘sport’ in Afghanistan, taking place outside their remote compound.


Tough guy Paul Farthing arrived with the men of Kilo Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines in the war torn town of ‘Now Zad’ in Helmand Province – one of the most dangerous places in Afghanistan – in 2006

Former Royal Marine commando Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, who runs an animal sanctuary in Kabul, has been separated from his wife Kaisa Helene in Kabul

He was befriended by one of the dogs, who became his companion and he was named Nowzad. The Marines built a run and mortar shelter to provide the dogs with some safety and shelter and when the commando force left, Farthing decided he couldn’t leave ‘those sad big eyes’ behind.

With the help of animal lovers Nowzad, several other dogs and 14 puppies befriended by Marines were taken on an epic journey to safety. Within months, the charity was formed with the aim of helping the animals of Afghanistan and educating the local people about the care and treatment of dogs as well as reducing rabies, a major problem in the country.

According to the Nowzad website, the clinic has reunited over 1,600 soldiers with the dogs and cats they rescue and bond with on the frontlines in Afghanistan, and ‘continue to be there for the brave men and women who show compassion to animals’. 

‘The relationships built up between a dog and soldier on bases can be very special,’ Farthing said, ‘A dog can ease the stress and provide five minutes of normality that is hugely important in that kind of environment, it can provide a bond that is hard to break.

‘Dogs have been proven to help post-traumatic stress and the soldiers who adopt them are addressing this.’   

Undated handout photo of Pen Farthing, founder of animal rescue charity Nowzad

The US-backed authorities in Kabul undertook a brutal operation of poisoning with thousands of stray dogs on the streets but Nowzad implemented an extensive programme of humane trap, neuter, vaccinate and release as an organised and effective way of controlling the dog population – and countering canine rabies.

In parallel, they helped to educate local Afghan children how to avoid feral dogs and the humane treatment of animals.  One dog at the clinic in particular carried the scars of brutality – Atish, brought in by a US aid worker who found him in agony of the streets.

‘His back side had been dipped in battery acid, we think,’ said Louise Hastie, the former British soldier running Nowzad’s operations, ‘we amputated most of the tail and he is making a good recovery.’

‘We have made real progress here in terms of both care and education and it is thanks to the support of all those people who donate.

‘Every penny they give is genuinely helping the lives of Afghan animals and that is something we are proud of. ‘For soldiers and others out here that we have helped there has been a special bond built-up with an animal here that they can’t give up.

‘They become like family, something you can rely on and will not let you down, a comfort even in the worst of times. You can trust them, they will not let you down. Soldiers and others have found you just can’t leave them behind.’ 

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