A former Royal Marine in Kabul says he will have to put the cats and dogs from his charity to sleep on the runway after the defence secretary said he had to “prioritise people over pets”.
Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing, who founded Nowzad, claimed the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has blocked a charter flight he crowdfunded to fly his 69 employees and 100 animals back to the UK after the Taliban seized Afghanistan.
He said Boris Johnson has approved the flight but the MoD is refusing to grant the aircraft the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) air sign so it can fly into the airport and out.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News: “He could get through the gates as a British passport holder. He was called forward on Friday and I recommend he takes that.
“His workforce have been offered, as entitled personnel, places and they will be able to be called forward, but I can’t guarantee in this window they will be processed on to aircraft, all I can say is they qualify.
“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.
“I regret that but I don’t believe the Taliban’s main point of target will be his workforce and animals, compared to the people at the front of the queue.”
He said the charter flight would “block the airfield and sit there empty” when the British are trying to get the flow of people through barriers and on to airplanes.
“I’m not prepared to prioritise pets over people,” Mr Wallace added.
Mr Farthing, reacting to Mr Wallace’s words, told Sky News he has had no confirmation in writing that his staff have permission to travel to England.
He said: “If I get stopped at a Taliban checkpoint with them, they’ll get turned around and Mr Wallace knows I’ve said I’m not leaving here without my staff.
“So, I’m not just going to go to the airport and get on a plane so his problem goes away.”
Mr Farthing, who was a Marine for 22 years, also said his “emergency line” to the MoD has been cancelled so he can no longer get updates, or provide the MoD with updates.
“He has abandoned me here in Afghanistan and wants me to go quiet, not on my watch, Mr Wallace,” he added.
He acknowledged the British troops cannot help him get to the airport, saying “that’s my problem” but said he would get his staff and animals to the airport.
“If they won’t allow me on to that aircraft then I’ll have to put all my dogs and cats to sleep on the runway,” he said.
“He’s just told me to get to the airport and I’m taking my staff and animals with me.
“I’m not being dictated to by an MP just because he has failed to get people off the ground, we are going to end up leaving people behind, this has been a disaster.”
Mr Farthing added that other charter flights are arriving at Kabul airport and said: “If America can do it, why can’t Britain, I’m not taking his excuses.”
And after seeing pictures of a car being placed on an evacuation flight, he said he was “not backing down”.