Ben Wallace smiling 010920 CREDIT PA
Afghanistan

Defence Secretary Hits Out At Supporters Of Animal Rescuer In Kabul

Ben Wallace says supporters of ex-Marine Pen Farthing have 'taken up too much time" in Kabul evacuation effort.

Ben Wallace smiling 010920 CREDIT PA

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said supporters of former Royal Marine seeking to evacuate animals from Afghanistan have "taken up too much time" of senior commanders dealing with the humanitarian crisis.

Paul 'Pen' Farthing served in Helmand and set up the charity Nowzad to look after animals in Afghanistan.

He has been aiming to get 200 dogs and cats out of the country, alongside his animal shelter staff and families.

On Thursday, he made a dash for the airport along with his 25 Afghan staff, their families and rescue animals only to be turned away due to 'changed paperwork'.

The former Royal Marine has previously said he would refuse to leave Afghanistan and abandon his charity staff.

When asked if Mr Farthing had been a diversion to the overall evacuation mission, Mr Wallace told LBC on Friday: "I don't think I would say he personally has.

"I think some people have been feeding him all sorts of false narratives that, if you're alone in Kabul, you'll probably believe everything that somebody tells you back from the UK.

"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 added.

Mr Wallace used a series of tweets on Thursday night to hit out at criticism from Mr Farthing's supporters and condemned "bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour" towards the Ministry of Defence staff.

The Defence Secretary, when asked about his tweets, told LBC: "My people were focused for the last two weeks on a humanitarian crisis.

"And 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."

He continued: "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.

"When people's time is right, they were called forward, and that's the right thing to do. But I hope he comes back, he was advised to come back, his wife came back last Friday, so I hope he does as well."

Watch: Pen Farthing explains why he is refusing to leave Afghanistan.

Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Mr Farthing and his supporters have campaigned to have his staff and their families as well as 140 dogs and 60 cats evacuated from the country in a plan he has dubbed Operation Ark.

Foreign Office advice updated on Wednesday night told people near the airport to "move away to a safe location" due to the "ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack", and Mr Wallace said on Wednesday that some people should instead head to a neighbouring country via a land border.

If you or someone you know needs support at this time, you can find more information by visiting the British Army website and the Government's website.

Further details about support available can be found on the Forces News website.

Cover image: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (Picture: PA).