Pen Farthing hits back at the government and claims Britain DIDN’T help him into Kabul airport – despite the MoD announcing it had helped him through the system – as fury grows at animal rescue ‘pantomime’
- Pen Farthing claims Britain didn’t help him into Kabul airport, despite MoD announcement saying they did
- Military veterans have taken aim at the ex-Royal Marine for staging a ‘pantomime’ in Afghanistan
- Mr Farthing landed in Heathrow with around 200 dogs and cats from the Nowzad animal shelter he founded
- He had denounced the Government for refusing to help get his animals out of Kabul amid the chaos
- Speaking to Good Morning Britain from Oslo, he admitted some seats on his animal rescue flight were empty
- Mr Farthing apologised after MoS revealed he threatened to ‘f**king destroy’ MoD adviser unless he helped
Pen Farthing has hit back at the Government and claimed that Britain didn’t help him into Kabul airport despite the Ministry of Defence announcing it had helped him and his cats and dogs through the system, as military veterans take aim at the ex-Royal Marine’s animal rescue ‘pantomime’.
The former soldier landed in Heathrow with around 200 dogs and cats from the Nowzad animal shelter he founded in Afghanistan after denouncing the Government for refusing to help get his animals out. He then took a connecting flight to Norway to see his wife Kaisa Markhus.
Ministers including Defence Secretary Ben Wallace have expressed frustration at Mr Farthing’s tactics after the Mail on Sunday revealed he threatened to ‘f**king destroy’ a government adviser unless he helped. A recording of the foul-mouthed rant was obtained by The Times.
Mr Wallace had initially said that he would not prioritise ‘pets over people’ but later allowed a charter plane to land at Kabul to pick up Mr Farthing, and ‘facilitated’ the charity’s entry to the airport.
But speaking to ITV’s Good Morning Britain from Oslo today, Mr Farthing dismissed claims that he was helped by the Government to get into Kabul airport with his animals. ‘Nobody in the British Government facilitated my entry into that airport – I did that with the Taliban,’ he said.
‘I came up to the British checkpoint, that was the first time – and this is well into the airport, the Taliban and British are stood there, there’s some barbed wire separating them – that was the first time I spoke to any British people.
‘So whoever is making any accusations or any comments needs to actually have been stood there on the ground to see how I got into that airport. Nobody facilitated my entry… any interpreters or anybody else, there was me and the truck full of dogs and cats, which went into a cargo hold where you cannot put people.’
He also admitted that some seats on his animal rescue flight were empty and that five of his cats died of shock on their way to Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Now, veterans are turning their fire on Mr Farthing. Major Andrew Fox, an ex-paratrooper who served three tours in Afghanistan, told The Times: ‘The Taliban’s agenda is not about killing animals or westerners who cared for them. It’s about killing those who worked with NATO. It’s insane they were facilitated into the airport with British citizens and interpreters left outside.’
Major James Bolter, a reservist in the Royal Logistic Corps, said the ‘pantomime’ surrounding the issue had distracted people on the ground from the task at hand. He told the paper: ‘Was this for worthy Afghan politicians or special forces? No, sadly and infuriatingly, this was to bring one ex-Royal Marine and his rescued cats and dogs to the UK. What do I tell those people left behind when they ask me why the UK put more effort into rescuing abandoned animals than them? I have no answers.
‘I am torn between anger and despair.’ He added: ‘You screwed up here.’
Major Andrew Fox, an ex-paratrooper who served three tours in Afghanistan and has been helping to evacuate trapped interpreters, took aim at Pen Farthing’s animal rescue out of Kabul
Mr Farthing landed in Heathrow with around 200 dogs and cats from the Nowzad animal shelter he founded in Kabul after denouncing the Government for refusing to help get his menagerie out
The ex-Commando then took a connecting flight to Oslo to see his wife Kaisa Markhus
Multiple rockets have been fired at Kabul airport today in just the latest attack as the US races to get its last troops out of Afghanistan before the August 31 deadline set by Joe Biden.
At least five missiles were fired, an American official told journalists, some of which fell short into the city while others were brought down by defence systems. There were no initial reports of US casualties but that information might change, the official added.
Afghan media said the rockets had been launched from the back of a truck and struck multiple parts of the city. No group has yet claimed responsibility, but it comes amid attacks by the ISIS-K terror group.
On Sunday, and American drone blew up what was believed to be a group of ISIS-K suicide bombers planning an attack on the airport, killing three children in the process.
Several civilians were also injured when a missile fired from a Reaper drone struck two cars parked to the north of Hamid Karzai airport, triggering a secondary explosion which led to the civilian casualties.
The death toll is expected to rise with Afghan TV reporting that as many as nine people died in the blast including six children, an interpreter who worked with US troops, and an Afghan army officer due to get married tomorrow.
The Taliban – which is now in control of Afghanistan and is enemies with ISIS-K – said it welcomed the US strike.
Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly insisted the Government had prioritised the evacuation of people over pets. He told LBC Radio: ‘We have always prioritised evacuating people over evacuating animals.
‘Mr Farthing is a British national, he had the opportunity to leave Afghanistan much earlier. His staff are enrolled on to the scheme by which Afghans that worked with the British were able to be evacuated.
‘But as I have said, we have always prioritised the evacuation of people.’
Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today, Mr Farthing said emotions ‘got the better’ of him during the expletive-laden message and apologised. A recording, obtained by The Times, captured Mr Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to Mr Ben Wallace, who he accused of ‘blocking’ efforts to arrange the evacuation flight.
The Defence Secretary has insisted on Twitter that it is a ‘total myth’ that he blocked a flight.
‘I’m incredibly embarrassed about my language, I do apologise to everybody who’s listened to that. I was at the lowest point I could possibly be. I understand how the world works but emotions got the better of me, so for all those who had to listen to that I do apologise for my language,’ he told GMB.
‘I should not have said it like that, but the sentiment, yes, I was just incredibly upset, angry, frustrated, it was the lowest point. I had no other option, I didn’t know what else to do. So that’s why you’ve probably heard some colourful language.’
He also told the show that there were ‘several empty seats’ on his evacuation flight with around 170 dogs and cats from the animal shelter and insisted he was the only person on the flight.
He added: ‘I went around and they reassured me that they had enough capacity for all the people that needed to leave. I was probably like the last person to enter that airport – it was closed. Americans, the British, had obviously stopped taking people in because there had to be a point where they stopped taking people in.
‘So they assured me they had enough capacity for everybody who was inside the airport.’
Mr Farthing flew back to the UK last night with his menagerie of animals rescued by the Nowzad charity, as audio of a foul-mouthed rant was leaked to the media. The 57-year-old’s chartered jet from Pakistan landed in Kabul at around 6pm local time and stopped off in Muscat before making its journey to Heathrow Airport. He then took a connecting flight to Norway.
Mr Farthing’s friend said the ex-Marine had succeeded in evacuating the 170 animals to the UK but 24 staff had to be left behind. Dominic Dyer, an animal welfare campaigner, said the former marine was forced to travel back alone after being told it was not possible to find people to fill the plane’s seats.
Mr Dyer said the shelter staff were ‘still in their homes’ with the charity in contact with them, adding that efforts would be made to try to get them out of Afghanistan.
‘They are one of thousands of Afghans… that have a right to leave the country but actually have no safe passage out at the moment,’ he said.
The activist said the staff were denied entry to the airport in Kabul on Thursday, with the Taliban claiming they did not have the right paperwork. ‘Tragic and not the ending we wanted, but we fell victim to the chaos and the difficulties of getting through those gates,’ he added.
All of the almost 100 dogs and 70 cats on the flight were ‘healthy’, with the dogs placed in kennels, Mr Dyer said. He said armed forces personnel ‘willingly and voluntarily’ helped Mr Farthing load the animals’ crates on to the aircraft in Kabul, but extra passengers were not found.
Appearing on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today, Mr Farthing said emotions ‘got the better’ of him during the expletive-laden message and apologised. A recording, obtained by The Times, captured Mr Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to Mr Ben Wallace, who he accused of ‘blocking’ efforts to arrange the evacuation flight
Mr Farthing confirmed he had landed in Heathrow. It has reported he took a connecting flight to Oslo to be with his wife
Pen Farthing flew back to the UK with his menagerie of animals rescued by the Nowzad charity
Mr Fathing’s staff and 179 cats and dogs, near the airport in Kabul as they attempted to flee the country
Mr Dyer claimed an appeal was put in to the British Government ‘to see if we could fill seats with refugees within the airport. They told us there was no one they could find that could actually fill that aircraft.’
Mr Farthing’s controversial publicity campaign to pressure the British Government to get his staff and animals out of the Afghan capital following the Taliban coup gained huge public support and helped the ex-Royal Marine to raise enough money to charter a private plane.
But it has also led to accusations that the ex-Commando took up resources that could have been used to evacuate more people from Kabul. It was revealed yesterday that up to 150 British nationals and 1,100 Afghans who assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan will be left behind in the country.
Kaisa Markhus, who fled Afghanistan last week for her native Norway, was eating dinner with her father in Oslo when Pen video-called her from inside Kabul airport
Ex-soldier Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, criticised the decision to use British troops to evacuate 180 cats and dogs while Afghan ex-UK staff are left fearing reprisals under Taliban rule.
‘The difficulty is getting people into and out of the airport and we’ve just used a lot of troops to get in 200 dogs,’ Mr Tugendhat said. ‘Meanwhile my interpreter’s family are likely to be killed. As one interpreter asked me a few days ago, why is my five year-old worth less than your dog?’
When asked what his answer was to his interpreter’s question, Mr Tugendhat replied: ‘I didn’t have an answer, what would your answer be?’
Major General Nick Carter, the head of the British Army, told the BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme that the army’s ‘priority has been to evacuate human beings,’ amid anger over the decision to evacuate animals.
‘We obviously worry about everything that needs to be evacuated, but of course these are very difficult times, and there are very difficult judgements to be made,’ he said.
Earlier Mr Farthing revealed how ‘depressing’ it was that he was forced to leave his Afghan staff behind. He told how his employees were stopped from crossing the Taliban line to the British area at Kabul airport.
His desperate comments were in sharp contrast to his wife, who spoke of her joy that her husband was on his way home. Kaisa Markhus, who fled Afghanistan last week for her native Norway, was eating dinner with her father in Oslo when she was told he was getting out.
It comes as the US military said it used a drone strike to kill a member of the so-called Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate.
The strike came amid what the White House called indications that ISIS-K planned to strike again as the US-led evacuation from Kabul airport moves into its final days. A devastating suicide bombing claimed by the group killed as many as 170 Afghans and 13 American service members at the airport on Thursday.
Mr Farthing flew out of Afghanistan for Tashkent in Uzbekistan with 94 dogs and 79 cats on a private jet and will later return to Britain. But the day was marked with sadness as he was forced to leave behind his workforce to the Taliban.
He told the Sun: ‘It is just so depressing I had to leave them behind. Some of them came with me to the airport but they weren’t allowed to cross the line from Taliban to British control.
Tom Tugendhat (pictured August 18 in the House of Commons) today criticised the decision to use soldiers to evacuate Mr Farthing’s animals while the lives of Afghans who assisted the British during the 20-year occupation of the country are under threat – including his own interpreter
It comes as the US military said it used a drone strike to kill a member of the so-called Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate (pictured, Kabul airport yesterday)
‘A mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes’: Boris Johnson praises UK troops on last flight out of Kabul ahead of ‘remorseless deadline’ – but PM says Britain ‘will return’ after 150 Brits and 1,000 Afghans were left behind
Boris Johnson has described Britain’s hasty scuttle from Afghanistan as ‘the culmination of a mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes’ as the last remaining British troops leave Kabul, bringing our two decades of military involvement in the country to an end.
In a video clip uploaded to Twitter on Sunday, the Prime Minister said: ‘UK troops and officials have worked around the clock to a remorseless deadline in harrowing conditions. They have expended all the patience and care and thought they possess to help people in fear for their lives.
‘They’ve seen at first-hand barbaric terrorist attacks on the queues of people they were trying to comfort, as well as on our American friends. They didn’t flinch. They kept calm. They got on with the job. It’s thanks to their colossal exertions that this country has now processed, checked, vetted and airlifted more than 15,000 people to safety in less than two weeks.’
As images from inside military aircraft were shared online by The Parachute Regiment and the Ministry of Defence last night showing exhausted British troops leaving Kabul, Mr Johnson pledged to return to Afghanistan when it is safe to do so.
Some 150 British nationals and more than 1,000 Afghans who assisted British forces during the intervention have been left behind. In a bid to put a positive gloss on Britain’s departure, the Prime Minister vowed to ‘use all the diplomatic and humanitarian tools at our disposal to preserve the gains of the last 20 years’.
Government sources insisted Britain’s absence from the war-ravaged country was only temporary.
‘There were lots of tears when we said goodbye. I feel so many things. I feel very sad for them [but] I’m relieved for me and I feel happy for the animals.’
The Ministry of Defence, which assisted his evacuation, confirmed he was through the airport in a tweet on Friday night. It said: ‘Pen Farthing and his pets were assisted through the system at Kabul airport by the UK armed forces. They are currently being supported while he awaits transportation. On the direction of the Defence Secretary, clearance for their charter flight has been sponsored by the UK Government.’
Mr Farthing told how his employees at the animal sanctuary drove with him to the airport in two cattle trucks. But he revealed they had been banned from crossing into the area controlled by British soldiers by armed Taliban fighters.
Soldiers helped him unload 125kg of dry pet food, 72 tins, 270 litres of water, 12 industrial size rolls of paper towel and 20 bottles of disinfectant in a warehouse.
Despite his misery at having to leave behind his staff, Mr Farthing’s wife was chuffed he was on his way out. Kaisa was eating dinner with her father in Oslo when Pen video-called her from inside Kabul airport. ‘You should have seen the smile on my face,’ she said.
Following Thursday’s carnage, Kaisa knew her husband was planning another attempt to reach the airport – but had no idea when. She said yesterday: ‘He’s now inside the airport and we had a quick video call. The second I saw him safely inside… you can imagine.’
Her husband and his animals escaping Kabul is the dream she has clung to ever since she was flown out of the city on a near-empty flight. She learned Pen, having made it through Taliban checkpoints, had been finally allowed to board a flight with 150 rescue cats and dogs from his Nowzad charity – but he was forced to leave his staff members behind.
‘I know Pen had a very hard choice. He faced that same choice when he was inside the airport with his staff and their families on Thursday and the animals and the staff were not allowed through,’ says Kaisa.
‘So, he went back to the compound to ensure everyone was safe and to discuss with them what to do. They decided he should go to the airport again with the dogs.
‘He was devastated to leave his staff but knew that by removing both the dogs and himself he would remove two big risk factors.’
Mr Farthing’s supporter and animal rights campaigner Dominic Dyer told the Mail: ‘Pen is OK, but he is very stressed. He has no choice but to leave and bring the animals with him. We are looking forward to getting them to the UK.
‘We are very pleased we’ve got him out and are very grateful to the British Government for their help, and for the support of the Armed Forces.’
Kaisa was sitting at her mother’s dining room table in a top borrowed from her sister and a newly bought pair of jeans. She had fled Kabul with nothing but a toothbrush and some deodorant.
Even the book she had been reading was left behind on the table beside the double bed that, until ten days ago, she shared with Mr Farthing. That they may soon hold each other again – and can start to plan their married life together – is enough to bring her to tears.
‘I cried as I was leaving Kabul,’ she says. ‘I was one of the lucky ones. When I was in the Norwegian camp at the airport there were three kids – babies – I was playing with who’d been separated from their parents. We had to leave them behind.
‘I thought, ‘I won’t see Kabul again. I might not see Pen again’. I was crying for those babies. What the f*** is this crisis about that we’re leaving small kids behind who have no one?’
She showed a short video on her phone of the children playing at the airport. The soldiers and evacuees fussed over them.
‘Two days later, I heard Norway had decided to bring them [the babies] over here. I told Pen on the phone that the babies were in Norway now. His first reaction was ‘tell them we want to adopt one’. I want kids with Pen.’
The hope in her voice could not be further removed from the distraught woman I’d spoken to earlier this week.
UK military personnel onboard a A400M aircraft departing Kabul, Afghanistan yesterday
Mr Farthing’s group also narrowly avoided the airport suicide bomb blasts which rocked the area earlier this week, killing 12 US serviceman and up to 90 Afghans. Above: Wounded Afghans in hospital after the blasts
‘No one has any money’: Taliban beat protesters with branches and hurl stones as desperate Afghans gather outside Kabul bank amid cash crisis
Afghanistan’s banking system is on the verge of collapse, with the country’s banks still closed nearly two weeks after the Taliban seizure of power and leaving many people without access to cash amid fears of an economic and humanitarian disaster.
Images show huge crowds of desperate Afghans queueing outside a bank in Kabul, with reports claiming that locals are getting unruly and are being pelted with stones and beaten with branches by Taliban militants standing guard as the country plunges into chaos.
Sources at the Afghan central bank told CNN that banks remain shuttered days after the Taliban ordered them and other services to reopen because they have virtually run out of cash.
The Afghan economy is heavily reliant on access to foreign currency and international aid, most of which has been blocked since the capital fell to the jihadists in a stunning coup. Grants finance 75 per cent of Afghanistan’s public spending, according to the World Bank.
The development has sparked fears of a severe economic and humanitarian crisis in the Central Asian country, where 47 per cent of households in Afghanistan live in poverty.
On Thursday she feared the worst when, having been advised by the British Government to go to Kabul’s airport to board a charter plane to safety, Mr Farthing – along with his 25 staff, their immediate families and 150 crated cats and dogs – was turned away at the last moment.
‘I was fearing for his life,’ Kaisa said. ‘I had this heavy feeling. When he was outside the airport I was afraid because I hadn’t heard from him.’
His group had been caught up in the hellish scenes on Thursday as Isis-K bombs killed at least 170 people, including 13 US military personnel.
Pen and his staff were tear-gassed and shot at as they fled for their lives.
‘When they got out he called me he said ‘oh, Kaisa Jan [an Afghan endearment meaning ‘dear’], hell just broke loose. I’ve had an AK gun in my chest twice now’.’
MoD sources last night made clear Mr Farthing and his convoy did not get preferential treatment and were not on board a military flight.
While Mr Farthing’s supporters said he had been turned away by the Taliban on Thursday, sources said he may have gone to the wrong gate.
Mr Ben Wallace initially dismissed Operation Ark, saying it would put ‘people before pets’ in the rush to flee Kabul. He later agreed to ‘seek a slot’ for the plane carrying out the mercy mission, but insisted the convoy would not be able to jump the queue.
There were suggestions by Mr Farthing’s supporters his change of tone was prompted by an intervention from Boris Johnson’s animal-loving wife Carrie – but this was denied by Downing Street sources.
Asked if Mr Farthing had been a diversion to the overall evacuation mission, Mr Wallace told LBC: ‘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.’
But he added: ‘I hope he comes back, he was advised to come back, his wife came back last Friday, so I hope he does as well.’
The only sadness for Kaisa now is that Pen has been forced to leave his beloved staff behind.
‘When the Taliban took over Kabul, I thought ‘if you have to put all the animals to sleep, do it’. There will be other dogs but you can’t do anything if you’re dead,’ she says.
‘But then I realised something. Pen has a mother, a brother and me. We are his three family members. Many of his staff have not gone home to their families during lockdown but stayed to help him.
‘When there was a big kidnapping threat here a few years ago they wouldn’t go home. They stayed in the office to protect him. They are his family.’
Two boys embrace each other as they weep in the parking lot at Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, in Kabul, after the blast
British troops were seen securing the perimeter outside the Baron Hotel, near the Abbey Gate in Kabul on Thursday following the bombing
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