An ex-Royal Marine who founded an animal rescue charity in Kabul landed at London Heathrow with his cats and dogs on a private charter plane from Afghanistan early this morning and immediately took a connecting flight to Norway to visit his wife, it has been claimed.
Pen Farthing flew back to the UK last night with his menagerie of animals rescued by the Nowzad charity. The 57-year-old’s chartered jet from Pakistan landed in Kabul at around 6pm local time and stopped off in Muscat before making its journey to Heathrow Airport.
The ex-Commando then took a connecting flight to Oslo to see his wife Kaisa Markhus, who fled Afghanistan last week in the chaos which gripped the Central Asian country following the Taliban seizure of power, according to airport security and officials on the ground.
Nearly 200 cats and dogs airlifted from Kabul are now thought to be in quarantine as per UK law. However, they could be put down if they have disease, with Whitehall officials calling the situation like Geronimo the alpaca – who is destruction after testing positive for Bovine TB – ‘on speed’.
MailOnline has approached Mr Farthing for further information. A spokesman for Heathrow declined to comment.
Mr Farthing’s controversial publicity campaign to pressure the British Government to get his staff and animals out of the Afghan capital following the Taliban coup gained huge public support and helped the ex-Royal Marine to raise enough money to charter a private plane.
But it has also led to accusations that the ex-Commando took up resources that could have been used to evacuate more people from Kabul. It was revealed yesterday that up to 150 British nationals and 1,100 Afghans who assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan will be left behind in the country.
Ex-soldier Tom Tugendhat, the Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and a vocal opponent of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, criticised the decision to use British troops to evacuate 180 cats and dogs while Afghan ex-UK staff are left fearing reprisals under Taliban rule.
‘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,’ Mr Tugendhat said. ‘Meanwhile my interpreter’s family are likely to be killed. 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, Mr Tugendhat replied: ‘I didn’t have an answer, what would your answer be?’
An ex-Royal Marine who founded an animal rescue charity in Kabul landed at London Heathrow early this morning and immediately took a connecting flight to Norway to visit his wife, it is understood
Pen Farthing flew back to the UK last night with his menagerie of animals rescued by the Nowzad charity
Mr Fathing’s staff and 179 cats and dogs, near the airport in Kabul as they attempted to flee the country
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,’ he said.
But in a blow to Mr Farthing, it emerged 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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)
‘A mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes’: Boris Johnson praises UK troops on last flight out of Kabul ahead of ‘remorseless deadline’ – but PM says Britain ‘will return’ after 150 Brits and 1,000 Afghans were left behind
Boris Johnson has described Britain’s hasty scuttle from Afghanistan as ‘the culmination of a mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes’ as the last remaining British troops leave Kabul, bringing our two decades of military involvement in the country to an end.
In a video clip uploaded to Twitter on Sunday, the Prime Minister said: ‘UK troops and officials have worked around the clock to a remorseless deadline in harrowing conditions. They have expended all the patience and care and thought they possess to help people in fear for their lives.
‘They’ve seen at first-hand barbaric terrorist attacks on the queues of people they were trying to comfort, as well as on our American friends. They didn’t flinch. They kept calm. They got on with the job. It’s thanks to their colossal exertions that this country has now processed, checked, vetted and airlifted more than 15,000 people to safety in less than two weeks.’
As images from inside military aircraft were shared online by The Parachute Regiment and the Ministry of Defence last night showing exhausted British troops leaving Kabul, Mr Johnson pledged to return to Afghanistan when it is safe to do so.
Some 150 British nationals and more than 1,000 Afghans who assisted British forces during the intervention have been left behind. In a bid to put a positive gloss on Britain’s departure, the Prime Minister vowed to ‘use all the diplomatic and humanitarian tools at our disposal to preserve the gains of the last 20 years’.
Government sources insisted Britain’s absence from the war-ravaged country was only temporary.
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.’
Mr Farthing’s 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.
‘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.’
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.
‘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.
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
‘No one has any money’: Taliban beat protesters with branches and hurl stones as desperate Afghans gather outside Kabul bank amid cash crisis
Afghanistan’s banking system is on the verge of collapse, with the country’s banks still closed nearly two weeks after the Taliban seizure of power and leaving many people without access to cash amid fears of an economic and humanitarian disaster.
Images show huge crowds of desperate Afghans queueing outside a bank in Kabul, with reports claiming that locals are getting unruly and are being pelted with stones and beaten with branches by Taliban militants standing guard as the country plunges into chaos.
Sources at the Afghan central bank told CNN that banks remain shuttered days after the Taliban ordered them and other services to reopen because they have virtually run out of cash.
The Afghan economy is heavily reliant on access to foreign currency and international aid, most of which has been blocked since the capital fell to the jihadists in a stunning coup. Grants finance 75 per cent of Afghanistan’s public spending, according to the World Bank.
The development has sparked fears of a severe economic and humanitarian crisis in the Central Asian country, where 47 per cent of households in Afghanistan live in poverty.
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.
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.’
Two boys embrace each other as they weep in the parking lot at Wazir Akbar Khan hospital, in Kabul, after the blast
British troops were seen securing the perimeter outside the Baron Hotel, near the Abbey Gate in Kabul on Thursday following the bombing
Kabul animal rescuer Pen Farthing is accused of ‘costing lives’ as recording reveals his foul-mouthed rant threatening to ‘f***ing destroy’ an MoD official in the middle of Afghanistan airlift
By Glen Owen Political Editor For The Mail On Sunday
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.