Pen Farthing reveals relief at being able to escape Kabul with his animals but not his former staff

A Tory MP waded into the Pen Farthing on Saturday as a rescue plane landed in Kabul to evacuate the former marine and 180 cats and dogs.

Tom Tugendhat 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 from the Taliban.

‘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,’ the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee said.

‘Meanwhile my interpreter’s family are likely to be killed,’ Tugendhat – who served in Afghanistan and Iraq – added. ‘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, Tugendhat replied: ‘I didn’t have an answer, what would your answer be?’

The MP’s comments came as 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.’ 

His comments came as it was revealed former Royal Marine turned animal rescuer Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing could be the last British civilian to leave Kabul airport.

The 57-year-old’s chartered jet from Karachi, Pakistan, landed at around 6pm local time as he prepares to fly 180 cats and dogs to safety.  

The last UK flight dedicated for civilians left last night and all further flights today are for military and diplomatic personnel.

It means when Mr Farthing’s plane finally takes off this evening, he could be the last British civilian to leave Afghanistan – even after the ambassador, Sir Laurie Bristow.

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

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

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

Major General Nick Carter (pictured), 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 that animals were being evacuated while some people - including a number of Mr Farthing's staff - are set to be left in Afghanistan

Major General Nick Carter (pictured), 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 that animals were being evacuated while some people - including a number of Mr Farthing's staff - are set to be left in Afghanistan

Major General Nick Carter (pictured), 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 that animals were being evacuated while some people – including a number of Mr Farthing’s staff – are set to be left in Afghanistan

The 57-year-old told how his employees were stopped from crossing the Taliban line to the British area at Kabul airport

The 57-year-old told how his employees were stopped from crossing the Taliban line to the British area at Kabul airport

The 57-year-old told how his employees were stopped from crossing the Taliban line to the British area at Kabul airport

Mr Farthing will fly from Kabul to Tashkent in Uzbekistan before later returning to Britain, where he has won legions of fans for holding the government to account.

But in a blow to the ex-soldier, it emerged today his animals will be locked up when he arrives in the UK.

Officials said the dogs and cats face a four-month quarantine in kennels and catteries until at least Christmas.

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 yesterday.

His desperate comments were in sharp contrast to his wife, who last night 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.

His desperate comments were in sharp contrast to his wife, who last night spoke of her joy that her husband and his furry friends were on their way home

His desperate comments were in sharp contrast to his wife, who last night spoke of her joy that her husband and his furry friends were on their way home

His desperate comments were in sharp contrast to his wife, who last night spoke of her joy that her husband and his furry friends were on their way home

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)

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)

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)

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.

‘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.

The former Royal Marine, who founded the Nowzad animal shelter in Kabul, has been engaged in a desperate attempt to board an RAF evacuation flight in recent days

The former Royal Marine, who founded the Nowzad animal shelter in Kabul, has been engaged in a desperate attempt to board an RAF evacuation flight in recent days

The former Royal Marine, who founded the Nowzad animal shelter in Kabul, has been engaged in a desperate attempt to board an RAF evacuation flight in recent days 

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.’

The wife of animal charity founder and former marine Pen Farthing (pictured together) last night spoke of her joy that her husband and his four-legged friends looked to be on their way home

The wife of animal charity founder and former marine Pen Farthing (pictured together) last night spoke of her joy that her husband and his four-legged friends looked to be on their way home

The wife of animal charity founder and former marine Pen Farthing (pictured together) last night spoke of her joy that her husband and his four-legged friends looked to be on their way home

The founder of Kabul’s Nowzad animal shelter, Paul Farthing – known as Pen – had been attempting to arrange a freedom flight in an operation dubbed ‘Operation Ark’.

British soldiers helped load the animals on to a privately chartered plane last night as they prepared to return to the UK.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed the group were ‘assisted through the system at Kabul airport by the UK Armed Forces’.

Last night his 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.

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

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

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

‘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.’

Understandably, Kaisa is wary of counting her chickens. ‘I won’t celebrate until he has landed,’ she says. ‘We’re still working on solutions to evacuate the staff.

‘The plane will be going to [the Uzbekistan capital] Tashkent but they don’t know when.

‘He only arrived outside the airport late this afternoon. It was quieter there because of Thursday’s bombings.’

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.

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

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

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

‘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.

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. 

Two boys embrace each other as they weep in the parking lot at Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, in Kabul, after the blast

Two boys embrace each other as they weep in the parking lot at Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, in Kabul, after the blast

Two boys embrace each other as they weep in the parking lot at Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, in Kabul, after the blast

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.

Defence Secretary 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 yesterday 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.’

Meanwhile 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.

US president Joe Biden has set August 31 as his deadline for completing the exit.

Mr Biden authorised the drone strike and it was ordered by US defence secretary Lloyd Austin.

The air strike was launched from beyond Afghanistan less than 48 hours after the devastating Kabul attack that killed 13 Americans and scores of Afghans with just days remaining in a final US withdrawal after 20 years of war.

US Central Command provided few details, though it said it believed no civilians were killed in the strike.

The speed with which the US military retaliated reflected its close monitoring of IS and its affiliates and years of experience in targeting extremists in remote parts of the world.

But it also shows the limits of US power to eliminate extremist threats, which some believe will have more freedom of movement in Afghanistan now that the Taliban is in power.

US central command said the drone strike was conducted in Nangahar province against an IS member believed to be involved in planning attacks against the United States in Kabul.

The strike killed one individual, Navy Capt William Urban said.

It was not clear if the targeted individual was involved directly in the suicide blast outside the gates of the Kabul airport on Thursday, where crowds of Afghans were desperately trying to get in as part of the ongoing evacuation.

The air strike came after Mr Biden declared that perpetrators of the attack would not be able to hide.

‘We will hunt you down and make you pay,’ he said.

Pentagon leaders told reporters on Friday that they were prepared for whatever retaliatory action the president ordered.

‘We have options there right now,’ said Maj Gen Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.

The president was warned on Friday to expect another lethal attack in the closing days of a frantic US-led evacuation.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden’s national security team offered a grim outlook.

‘They advised the president and vice president that another terror attack in Kabul is likely, but that they are taking maximum force protection measures at the Kabul airport,’ Ms Psaki said, echoing what the Pentagon has been saying since the bombing Thursday at Kabul airport.

British troops were seen securing the perimeter outside the Baron Hotel, near the Abbey Gate in Kabul on Thursday following the bombing

British troops were seen securing the perimeter outside the Baron Hotel, near the Abbey Gate in Kabul on Thursday following the bombing

British troops were seen securing the perimeter outside the Baron Hotel, near the Abbey Gate in Kabul on Thursday following the bombing

Late on Friday, the US state department again urged Americans to stay away from airport gates, including ‘the New Ministry of Interior gate’.

Few new details about the airport attack emerged a day later, but the Pentagon corrected its initial report that there had been suicide bombings at two locations.

It said there was just one – at or near the Abbey Gate – followed by gunfire. The initial report of a second bombing at the nearby Baron Hotel proved to be false, said Maj Gen Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff. He attributed the mistake to initial confusion.

Mr Biden still faces the problem over the longer term of containing an array of potential extremist threats based in Afghanistan, which will be harder with fewer US intelligence assets and no military presence in the nation.

Emily Harding, a former CIA analyst and deputy staff director for the US senate intelligence committee, said she doubted Mr Biden’s assurances that the United States will be able to monitor and strike terror threats from beyond Afghanistan’s borders.

The Pentagon also insists this so-called ‘over the horizon’ capability, which includes surveillance and strike aircraft based in the Persian Gulf area, will be effective.

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