Ben Wallace dismisses Pen Farthing’s ‘cut off’ claims
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Pen Farthing, a former Royal Marines commando and founder of the Nowzad Dogs charity, is stuck at Kabul airport unable to make his way through the crowds of desperate Afghans in order to board his private flight back to the UK with his team and animals. Mr Farthing and his team made a midnight journey to the airport in convoy after receiving notice from Defence Secretary Ben Wallace that they could board a private plane back to Britain. On the way to the airport, they were stopped at a Taliban checkpoint.
Mr Farthing said: “About 15 guys jumped out and levelled their guns at us. Then one of them had an ND [a negligent discharge]. Luckily he was a s*** shot and it went over our heads.”
Writing on social media, he appealed directly to The Taliban, saying: “Dear Sir; my team and my animals are stuck at airport circle. We have a flight waiting. Can you please facilitate safe passage into the airport for our convoy?
“Suhail Shaheen, we are an NGO who will come back to Afghanistan but right now I want to get everyone out safely.”
He added: “We have been here for 10 hours after being assured that we would have safe passage. Truly would like to go home now. Let’s prove the IEA [Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] are taking a different path.”
Armed Forces Minister James Heapey said that moving “lots of desperate Afghans” out of the way to allow Pen Farthing and his 173 rescue animals safe passage to the flight “doesn’t feel like the right thing to do”.
Secretary of State for Defence, Ben Wallace, has also complained that British military efforts to evacuate people from Kabul have been “diverted” because of the attempts to rescue animals being cared for by Mr Farthing.
Mr Wallace has come under fire for previously blocking passage to the Nowzad team and animals by refusing to issue an ISAF call sign number.
He said: “As for the animals that he was rescuing, it is just not going to be the case that I will prioritise them over the men, women and children we see in desperate need at the gate.”
The Prime Minister’s wife allegedly tried to overrule Mr Wallace to allow Pen Farthing’s animals to leave Kabul on a charter plane.
A friend of Mr Farthing, Dominic Dyer, told the Mail: “Mr Johnson’s wife, Carrie, most certainly had something to do with the change.”
However Downing Street strongly denied that the last-minute decision to allow the flight access was down to personal intervention.
Now that the animal rescue team have been granted permission, the problem Mr Farthing faces is moving his huge convoy through the airport when 10,000 Afghan citizens are swarming the access points.
Mr Farthing said this morning: “We’ve got hours now before animals start dying. There are some in the middle we can’t reach and we can’t start unloading them because it will attract too much attention. It is getting really desperate.
“We have permission to leave. We are in touch with the British forces, but they say they are powerless to help.”
Mr Farthing has refused to leave Kabul without taking his team and animals with him, after he was called forward for evacuation on Friday as a British passport holder.
Many political commentators have sympathised with Mr Farthing’s awful dilemma, but have insisted that efforts at the airport should be directed towards the rescue of people not animals.
Journalist Kate Maltby wrote on Twitter: “I feel for Farthing, because this is his (impressive) life’s passion. But I know experts exhausting themselves to tears trying to get military for safe passage through the airport for targeted human beings.”
The tweets of animal lovers sitting in London that ‘the plane is paid for, so there’s no diversion of resources’ are hard to take.”
Another Twitter user said: “I have such conflicting emotions about this. On the one hand, I applaud his loyalty to his staff and animals and his service. On the other, even with their own plane and animals in the hold, they will be using runway time that could evacuate hundreds of people at risk. It’s all heart-breaking.”
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The US forces, who control the airport, will have the final say over whether Mr Farthing, his team, and his animals get on the plane.
The group are understood not to be in the highest “priority” group as they are not deemed “at-risk”, so there is a chance they might miss their plane.
Do you think Pen Farthing’s animals should be flown home? Vote now.
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