A former Royal Marine seeking to evacuate animals from Afghanistan says they and his team were “turned away” after they managed to reach Kabul airport.
Pen Farthing, who is trying to evacuate some 200 dogs and cats from the country, tweeted that they got 300m into the airport grounds on Thursday evening, only to be prevented from travelling due to a change in paperwork rules by the US just hours earlier.
Afghanistan latest – live updates as UK’s Kabul evacuation enters ‘final hours’
Mr Farthing added that the group were then caught up in the chaos of the terror attack that killed US troops as well as Afghan civilians queuing up outside the airport in hope of fleeing the Taliban.
“Went through hell to get there & we were turned away into the chaos of those devastating explosions,” the charity worker said on Twitter.
Since the Taliban swept to power, Mr Farthing and his supporters have been campaigning to have his staff and their families as well as 140 dogs and 60 cats evacuated from the country in a plan he has dubbed Operation Ark.
However, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said evacuation efforts have been “diverted” by attempts to rescue Mr Farthing’s animals and that his supporters have “taken up too much time” of senior commanders who are dealing with the humanitarian crisis.
Asked if the marine has been a diversion to the overall evacuation mission, Mr Wallace told LBC on Friday: “I don’t think I would say he personally has.
“I think some people have been feeding him all sorts of false narratives that if you’re alone in Kabul you’ll probably believe everything that somebody tells you back from the UK.
“I think it has taken up too much time of my senior commanders dealing with this issue when they should be focused on dealing with the humanitarian crisis.”
Mr Wallace used a series of tweets on Thursday to hit out at criticism from Mr Farthing’s supporters and condemned “bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour” towards Ministry of Defence staff.
The defence secretary, when asked about his tweets, told LBC: “My people were focused for the last two weeks on a humanitarian crisis.”
He said he has had to listen to “calls of abuse” to his advisers and officials, based on accusations that someone had blocked a flight.
“No-one blocked a flight,” he said. “Fundamentally, as we have seen on the media, there are desperate, desperate people, and I was not prepared to push those people out of the way for that.
“When people’s time is right, they were called forward, and that’s the right thing to do. But I hope he comes back, he was advised to come back, his wife came back last Friday, so I hope he does as well.”
Mr Wallace said on Friday that Britain’s evacuation effort in Kabul has entered its final hours and has largely ended processing new evacuees, with the Baron Hotel processing centre now closed.
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