A former Royal Marine who founded an animal shelter in Kabul ‘cost lives’ as a result of his mission to evacuate 173 cats and dogs from Afghanistan, senior defence sources said last night.
Pen Farthing, who flew back to the UK last night with his menagerie of animals rescued by the Nowzad charity, has also been accused of ‘bullying’ British Government officials.
A leaked voice message obtained by The Mail on Sunday has revealed the behind-the-scenes bitterness over the airlift, with Mr Farthing telling an Ministry of Defence official that he would ‘spend the rest of my time f****** destroying’ him if he did not secure clearance for a flight out of the country.
The official, Peter Quentin, an adviser to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, is understood to have also received death threats from supporters of Mr Farthing as a result of his involvement in the animal rescue.
On the recording, which was shared by officials as part of an investigation into the alleged threats, Mr Farthing can be heard demanding ‘an ISAF number’ – a military callsign which has not been in use since 2014 – for a charter plane to take him, his animals and staff out of the Afghan capital.
Pen Farthing (pictured), who flew back to the UK last night with his menagerie of animals rescued by the Nowzad charity, has also been accused of ‘bullying’ British Government officials
Mr Farthing, who served 22 years in the military, accuses Mr Quentin of ‘blocking’ his efforts to leave the country, saying: ‘Here’s the deal buddy. You either get me that f****** ISAF number and you get me permission to get on that f****** airfield or tomorrow morning I am going to turn on you. The whole f****** country… is going to know that it is you.’
During the two-minute rant, Mr Farthing also says: ‘I served for 22 years for the Royal Marine Commandos. I am not going to take this b******* from people like you.’
Friends of Mr Quentin, who denies trying to block a flight, say he was particularly incensed by the ‘people like you’ line as he has also operated in Afghanistan – learning Dari in the process – and returned several times to conduct research and write a book on the conflict.
They also maintain that Mr Quentin had been personally helping with the evacuation of Afghans and to ensure Nowzad staff were on the evacuation list.
Mr Farthing’s publicity campaign has angered the MoD because of the distraction it has provided from the ‘core mission’ of airlifting refugees.
A defence source said: ‘This selfish charade has cost lives.’ Another source said the MoD’s help to evacuate animals meant ‘this is the first British Government explicitly committed to the idea of non-white people as equivalent to animals since the abolition of slavery.’
Yesterday, senior Tory MP and former soldier Tom Tugendhat issued a withering condemnation of the way MoD resources had been used for the animal evacuation.
Another source said the MoD’s help to evacuate animals (pictured) meant ‘this is the first British Government explicitly committed to the idea of non-white people as equivalent to animals since the abolition of slavery’
Mr Tugendhat, who served in Afghanistan, revealed how his former interpreter, who is now stuck in Kabul, asked him: ‘Why is my five-year-old worth less than your dog?
‘I didn’t have an answer,’ he says.
The MP, who is chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, told LBC: ‘People have been focusing on the aeroplanes. It’s not the aeroplanes that are the problem. There’s quite a lot of space on the aeroplanes.
They are coming and going relatively easily. The difficulty is getting people into and out of the airport.
‘And we have just used a lot of troops to bring in 200 dogs. Meanwhile, my interpreter’s family are likely to be killed. We run an NHS in the UK that taxes us all about one in seven pounds we spend. What would you say if I sent an ambulance to save my dog rather than to save your mother?’
Mr Farthing’s flight left without charity staff who were prevented from entering the military-controlled area at Kabul airport, despite having been granted visas for the UK.
They had helped to bring the pets to the airport in two cattle trucks. Mr Farthing said armed Taliban militants stopped the Afghan staff from crossing into the British-controlled zone where they could board the privately chartered flight to the UK.
Speaking about his staff members, Mr Farthing, whose real name is Paul, said: ‘It is just so depressing that 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.
‘I feel so many things. I feel very sad for them, I’m relieved for me and I feel happy for the animals. There were lots of tears when we said goodbye.’
Carrie Johnson’s close friend Nimco Ali made a thinly veiled attack on Mr Farthing on Friday.
In response to a story posted on Twitter by the BBC which told how he said he ‘went through hell’ to reach Kabul airport only to be turned away, the activist wrote: ‘So have countless Afghans. But we don’t know their names and they might never get out.’
Reports had suggested that animal-lover Mrs Johnson had used her influence to lobby for Mr Farthing’s cause, but the Prime Minister firmly denied such claims.
Mr Quentin declined to comment last night and when the MoS contacted Mr Farthing’s wife, Kaisa, about the outburst, she also declined to comment.