A former Royal Marine trying to evacuate animals from Afghanistan has been helped through Kabul airport by UK armed forces and is now waiting for transport, the Ministry of Defence has said.
The government tweeted: “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.”
Afghanistan latest – live updates as UK’s Kabul evacuation enters ‘final hours’
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.
— Ministry of Defence Press Office (@DefenceHQPress) August 27, 2021
Sources from the Ministry of Defence told Sky News Mr Farthing has had no preferential treatment and there has been no queue jump or U-turn.
They said: “The Defence Secretary always said we would facilitate a flight. If Pen had done this last Friday, then none of this would have happened.”
Mr Farthing has been trying to evacuate some 200 dogs and cats from the country, dubbed Operation Ark.
Responding to Mr Farthing’s evacuation, Charlie Herbert, former NATO advisor to the Afghan ministry, tweeted: “You put his dogs and cats above the ten Afghan families that I’ve been trying to get into the EHC for the last 72 hours.
“I will never forgive you.”
Earlier on Friday, Mr Farthing tweeted he and his team 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.
Mr Farthing said the group had been caught up in the chaos of the terror attack that killed British nationals, US troops and 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.
However, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said evacuation efforts have been “diverted” by attempts to rescue Mr Farthing’s animals and his supporters have “taken up too much time” of senior commanders who are 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.