Defence Secretary: Claims I blocked Operation Ark flights 'total myth'

27 August 2021, 08:21

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said it is a "total myth" that he has blocked a flight to evacuate animals out of Afghanistan.

The conversation comes as Pen Farthing, who founded the Nowzad shelter in Kabul and is seeking to secure the passage of 200 dogs and cats out of the country, said he had been stuck at Kabul Airport for 10 hours.

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, the Defence Secretary said former Royal Marine Pen Farthing would get out, "he was called forward last Friday."

Read more: UK enters final hours of Afghanistan evacuation

Mr Wallace said he had urged for the former Marine to come to the airport a week ago.

"I do hope he makes his way back to the airport."

But, the Defence Secretary wanted to point out that over the last two weeks his team were "focused on a humanitarian crisis."

"I had to listen to calls of abuse to my advisers, officials, based on falsehoods."

Earlier in the week fans of Farthing hit out at Wallace and Defence officials over claims access to an evacuation flight had been blocked.

"No one blocked a flight," Mr Wallace said.

Nick Ferrari asked if Mr Farthing had been a "diversion," or "got in the way."

Read more: Afghanistan: 13 US troops and scores of Afghan people die in Kabul airport suicide attack

"It has taken up too much time of my senior commanders dealing with this issue when they should be focused on the humanitarian crisis."

Paul Farthing, known as Pen - who founded the Nowzad shelter in Kabul - is aiming to get dogs and cats out of the country alongside his animal shelter staff and a number of children.

Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Mr Farthing and his supporters have campaigned to have his staff and their families, around 68 people, as well as animals evacuated from the country in a plan he has dubbed Operation Ark.

Read more: Animal rescuer Pen Farthing blames Biden after he's turned away from Kabul airport

Yesterday the Defence Secretary took to Twitter to hit back at the claims being made against him.

Mr Wallace tweeted: "Let's get some facts out there: 1. No one , at any stage has blocked a flight. This is a total myth and is being peddled around as if that is why the pet evacuation hasn't taken place. 2. I never said I would not facilitate. I said no one would get to queue jump.

"3. The issue, as those desperate people waiting outside the gates know too well, has always been getting processed through the entrances. It can take over 24hrs. There is no point turning up with a plane until the passengers / pets are airside."

He added: "The bullying, falsehoods and threatening behaviour by some towards our MOD personnel and advisors is unacceptable and a shameful way to treat people trying to help the evacuation. They do their cause no good.

"So can people now please let my civil servants and military get on with dealing with one of the most dangerous and challenging evacuations for a generation. As professionals they will do their best for all those eligible and with my full support."