An animal charity group campaigning for their staff and 200 dogs and cats to be assisted in evacuating from Afghanistan has finally been given the go-ahead by the British military.
Former Royal Marine Paul Farthing, known as “Pen,” has been running the Nowzad shelter in Kabul after doing his military service in the country since the mid-2000s. The organization rescues dogs, cats and donkeys facing danger in the wartorn country.
Since the Afghan government rapidly collapsed, Farthing has been preoccupied with flying his staff and rescue animals out of the country in a campaign he has named “Operation Ark.”
He has now been given the green light to exit the country by UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace.
“[Farthing] could get through the gates as a British passport holder,” Wallace told Sky News on Monday.
“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 onto aircraft, all I can say is they qualify,” he added.
However, the defense minister noted that “as for the animals that he was rescuing… it is just not going to be the case that I will prioritize them over the men, women and children we see in desperate need at the gate.”
Farthing had chartered a $500,000 plane for his staff and animals, but claimed that bureaucratic obstacles were interfering with the process of leaving. Supporters have even accused the ministry of “sabotaging” the rescue.
Defense Secretary Wallace has disputed this, noting: “No one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue.”
Farthing, however, stresses that he wants to ensure that the animals are also included in any rescue.
“Mr. Wallace, I never asked you to prioritize pets over people,” Farthing told Sky News.
“We’ve got an aircraft that we need to put 69 people on, it’s got capacity for 250 people,” he added. “And in that cargo hold – it’ll be empty. I can’t park people in a cargo hold, but I can park my animals in that cargo hold.”
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