The rescue of an Afghan pet by a British soldier put British evacuation efforts on defense


Ex-Royal Marine secured help from UK forces to transport 200 rescue animals in chartered plane

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(Bloomberg) – As the operation to airlift Afghans desperate to flee the Taliban regime enters its final hours, a row has erupted over the evacuation of hundreds of cats and dogs by a former British serviceman.

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Amid scenes of chaos at Kabul airport, Pen Farthing, a former member of the UK’s Royal Marines, managed to enlist help from British forces with his plan to fly 200 rescue animals on a plane chartered for this purpose. Animals can come out, but Afghan staff from his charity group in Nowzad will be left behind.

While many supported the effort, which Farthing dubbed Operation Ark, others were angered that there were only hours left before the UK evacuation operation was completed, time and resources were spent getting animals, rather than people, out of the country.

Major General Nick Carter, head of the British Army, faced tough questions on the BBC’s Radio 4 morning show on Saturday about the government’s decision to back Operation Ark. Carter was asked if he was frustrated to see his staff working to get animals out.

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Britain's evacuation operation for its nationals and protected persons intensified on August 19, with planes landing in Dubai before passengers traveled to the UK.  At Al-Maktoum airport, south of Dubai, a Royal Air Force <a class=transport plane carrying evacuees from Afghanistan took off at around 10.40 a.m. GMT with another group of passengers bound for the UK from Kabul soon after, noted an AFP correspondent.” class=”embedded-image__image lazyload” src=”https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Kabul3.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288″ srcset=”https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Kabul3.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=288, https://smartcdn.gprod.postmedia.digital/nationalpost/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Kabul3.jpg?quality=90&strip=all&w=576 2x” height=”750″ loading=”lazy” width=”1000″/>
Britain’s evacuation operation for its nationals and protected persons intensified on August 19, with planes landing in Dubai before passengers traveled to the UK. At Al-Maktoum airport, south of Dubai, a Royal Air Force transport plane carrying evacuees from Afghanistan took off at around 10.40 a.m. GMT with another group of passengers bound for the UK from Kabul soon after, noted an AFP correspondent. Photo by Reuters

“Our priority has been to evacuate humans,” Carter said. “We are obviously worried about everything that needs to be evacuated, but of course these are very difficult times, and there are very difficult judgments to be made.

Farthing had received huge publicity after it took to Twitter to discuss the plight of its animals and its staff’s attempt to leave Afghanistan on a non-military charter flight. In a message four days ago, Farthing wrote: “I was left to my own devices in Kabul. Cut from my #MOD [Ministry of Defence] support line by special adviser @benwallaemp [the U.K. Defence Secretary] 22 year old Marine has left lines behind…neither my staff nor my animals will come out now – well done.

Among Farthing’s prominent supporters was British actor and comedian Ricky Gervais who tweeted that because the animals were carried in the plane’s cargo hold they didn’t take up space that might otherwise have been occupied by Afghans and others trying to escape the chaos that followed the Taliban takeover of the country.

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Wallace himself entered the fray on Thursday, using his personal Twitter account to send out a series of messages defending his department’s position and describing the claim that he blocked Farthing’s theft as a “total myth.” “I never said I wouldn’t facilitate. I said no one could skip the queue,” Wallace wrote. The Defense Secretary accused Farthing supporters of engaging in “bullying, lies and threatening behavior” towards Ministry of Defense personnel trying to help with the evacuation operation.

  1. Taliban forces block roads around Kabul airport, as a woman walks by, August 27, 2021. After Canada announced its last flight out of Afghanistan, many cooks, guards and translators who had helped Canadians were stranded.

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  2. Afghans gather on the side of a road near the military part of Kabul airport on Friday, August 20, 2021, hoping to flee the country after the Taliban military takeover of Afghanistan.

    Taliban repel crowd at Kabul airport after seven people killed

Following criticism of the government’s position, Farthing and his animals were finally allowed to leave on Friday. The ministry said Wallace personally intervened to secure clearance for the rescue flight to take off from Kabul. Afghan staff at Farthing had obtained visas to leave but were unable to pass through Taliban checkpoints to enter the airport compound, Farthing told the Telegraph newspaper.

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On Saturday afternoon UK time, Farthing and his animals were still in Kabul. Sky News reporter Tamara Cohen tweeted that the chartered plane for the evacuation had arrived at the airport.

The diversion of scarce resources in the final days of the Afghan rescue mission to save pets has not proven universally popular. An article in the UK’s centre-right magazine The Spectator criticized the decision. “The British State has chosen to dedicate some of its resources to assist in the evacuation of animals from Afghanistan. These resources may not be used for any other purpose,” wrote James Kirkup, director of the Social Market Foundation think tank.

“There are probably many words for this situation, but the only one that comes to mind [sic]: shameful.

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