Paul Farthing: Ex-Marine may have to 'put down' animals in Kabul if disallowed to fly
Paul 'Pen' Farthing, the founder of Nowzad, crowdfunded a charter flight to fly his charity's 69 employees and 100 animals back to the UK
A former Royal Marine stuck in Kabul has said he will be forced to put cats and dogs from his charity to sleep on the runway itself after the UK defense secretary said he had to "prioritize people over pets." However, there was fresh hope for a full rescue on Wednesday, August 25.
Paul 'Pen' Farthing, the founder of Nowzad, said the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) had blocked a charter flight crowdfunded by the charity to fly his 69 employees and 100 animals back to the UK after the Taliban's hostile takeover of Afghanistan. Farthing claimed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had approved the flight, but the MoD had refused to grant the aircraft the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) air sign required to access the Kabul airfield.
"He could get through the gates as a British passport holder. He was called forward on Friday and I recommend he takes that," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News. "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 on to aircraft, all I can say is they qualify."
He continued, "As for the animals that he was rescuing, it is just not going to be the case that I will prioritize them over the men, women, and children we see in desperate need at the gate. I regret that but I don't believe the Taliban's main point of target will be his workforce and animals, compared to the people at the front of the queue."
Wallace said that the charter flight crowdfunded by Farthing would "block the airfield and sit there empty" when British troops were trying to secure the flow of people through barriers onto the planes. "I'm not prepared to prioritize pets over people," Wallace insisted.
Responding to Wallace, Farthing told Sky News that he had received no written confirmation that his staff had permission to fly to England. "If I get stopped at a Taliban checkpoint with them, they'll get turned around and Mr Wallace knows I've said I'm not leaving here without my staff," he said. "So, I'm not just going to go to the airport and get on a plane so his problem goes away."
Farthing, who was a Royal Marine for more than two decades, added that his "emergency line" to the MoD had been canceled and he is no longer receiving updates. "He has abandoned me here in Afghanistan and wants me to go quiet, not on my watch, Mr Wallace," Farthing added.
The veteran said he understood that British troops couldn't help him get to the airport, and declared "that's my problem." He was confident he would get his staff and animals to the airfield gates. "If they won't allow me on to that aircraft then I'll have to put all my dogs and cats to sleep on the runway," Farthing said.
However, there was fresh hope for a complete rescue on Wednesday. Wallace conceded in a series of tweets that officials would allow Farthing, his staff, as well as his animals to leave on the chartered aircraft if he managed to bring them to the airport.
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. @DefenceHQ— Rt. Hon Ben Wallace MP (@BWallaceMP) August 25, 2021
"Now that Pen Farthing's staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorized 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," Wallace explained in a tweet. "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." He added, "No one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue."