Pen Farthing has 'mixed emotions' after fleeing Kabul with animals and not staff

29 August 2021, 22:38 | Updated: 29 August 2021, 22:40

Pen Farthing has landed in the UK with his animals, but was forced to leave his staff behind.
Pen Farthing has landed in the UK with his animals, but was forced to leave his staff behind. Picture: Twitter

By Sophie Barnett

Former royal marine Pen Farthing who founded an animal shelter in Kabul has landed safely in the UK with 170 dogs and cats, but was forced to leave his charity's Afghan staff behind.

Mr Farthing said he had "mixed emotions" after landing at Heathrow Airport early on Sunday morning.

The former royal marine, who served for more than 22 years, arrived home in a privately funded charter flight after people came together to crowdfund for 'Operation Ark' through social media.

Dominic Dyer, an animal welfare campaigner and supporter of Mr Farthing, said the former marine was forced to travel back alone after being told it was not possible to find people to fill the plane's seats.

Mr Farthing's campaign to get workers and animals from the shelter out of Afghanistan has caused controversy in recent days, after receiving a huge amount of public support.

Read more: Pen Farthing left voicemail for defence aide saying 'I am going to destroy you' - reports

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He tweeted on Sunday afternoon: "Arrived Heathrow with partial success of #OpArk Mixed emotions & true deep feeling of sadness for Afghan today."

Mr Farthing praised the support at the airport, adding: "Witnessed 1st hand the compassion Heathrow is showing Afghan refugees."

Mr Dyer said the shelter staff were "still in their homes" with the charity in contact with them, adding that efforts would be made to try to get them out of Afghanistan.

"They are one of thousands of Afghans... that have a right to leave the country but actually have no safe passage out at the moment," he said.

Mr Dyer said the staff were denied entry to the airport in Kabul on Thursday, with the Taliban claiming they did not have the right paperwork.

Mr Dyer claimed an appeal was put in to the British Government "to see if we could fill seats with refugees within the airport".

"They told us there was no one they could find that could actually fill that aircraft.

"In fact, they had more air capacity than they had people, which probably tells you an awful lot about the final days of the withdrawal from Afghanistan."

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He added that "all efforts were made to do what we could" but it was "not possible to find anyone", with Mr Farthing loading the animals and leaving "on his own".

Mr Farthing's "Operation Ark" campaign became hugely successful on social media, but Defence Secretary Ben Wallace complained it was distracting those focusing on evacuating the most vulnerable.

Mr Wallace previously said MoD staff had faced abuse from Mr Farthing's supporters.

On Saturday, the Times said it had obtained a leaked audio recording where Paul "Pen" Farthing is said to be berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to defence secretary Ben Wallace, who he accused of "blocking" efforts to arrange a flight.

In the recorded message, reportedly sent on Monday, Mr Farthing threatened to "destroy" Mr Quentin on social media if he did not help arrange the evacuation.

Mr Dyer previously claimed Mr Quentin was "instrumental in seeking to undermine support for Operation Ark across Whitehall despite this being a privately funded humanitarian mission with huge public and political support".

He added: "Pen Farthing, who was risking his life in Kabul to get his people and animals to Britain, was completely justified in holding Mr Quentin to account for his actions and I think it's time Ben Wallace came clean on how this rogue adviser attempted to delay flight authorisation for Operation Arc into Kabul."