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A former Royal Marine who founded an animal shelter in Afghanistan has made it through Kabul airport’s security with his pets and is awaiting a flight out of Afghanistan the Ministry of Defence has said.
Paul “Pen” Farthing’s campaign to evacuate his staff and 200 cats and dogs from the Nowzad shelter has caused controversy after receiving a huge amount of public support.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace complained some of Mr Farthing’s supporters had “taken up too much time” of senior commanders.
Although visas were granted for his 24 staff and their dependents, Mr Farthing refused to leave without his animals and dubbed the charity’s evacuation plans “Operation Ark” .
On Friday the Ministry of Defence confirmed the former soldier and his animals were on the brink of escape.
“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,” the MoD said.
“On the direction of the Defence Secretary, clearance for their charter flight has been sponsored by the UK Government.”
Earlier on Friday, Mr Wallace said MoD staff had faced abuse from the charity’s supporters.
Mr Farthing claimed his team and the rescue animals had managed to reach Kabul Airport on Thursday, only to be “turned away” due to changes in paperwork rules made by the US some hours earlier.
Speaking to LBC Mr Wallace said: “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.”
He condemned “bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour” towards MoD staff.
The Defence Secretary, when asked about his tweets, said: “My people were focused for the last two weeks on a humanitarian crisis.
“I had to listen sometimes to calls of abuse to my advisers, to my officials, based mainly on falsehoods, that somebody, somewhere had blocked a flight – no-one blocked a flight.
“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.”
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
Mr Farthing said his team were 300m inside Kabul Airport on Thursday but were turned away and as a result got caught up in the terror attack that killed Afghan civilians queuing up to flee the Taliban and US troops.
“Went through hell to get there & we were turned away into the chaos of those devastating explosions,” he said.
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.