Former Royal Marine Hopes to Rescue 200 Shelter Dogs and Cats from Kabul

Paul "Pen" Farthing hopes to evacuate 140 dogs and 60 cats from the Afghan capital following the Taliban takeover

Pen Farthing with fighting dog Nowzad in Afghanistan
Photo: Matt Austin/Shutterstock

A former British Marine hopes to get the green light to fly a plane from Kabul to rescue 200 shelter dogs and cats, amid a dispute with the U.K.'s Defense Secretary, who is arguing that people are the priority and should be flown out first.

Paul "Pen" Farthing served as a Royal Marine for 22 years, establishing the Nowzad animal shelter in Afghanistan in 2006 after his military service, The Guardian reported. Following the Taliban takeover, Farthing hopes to fly his staff and 140 dogs and 60 cats from the Afghan capital to safety.

While Farthing, his team and their family members were awarded visas by the U.K. government to evacuate earlier this week, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace initially said the privately chartered flight, funded by donations, will not be allowed to take off if there are animals on board, The Guardian reported.

Pen Farthing
Pen Farthing Twitter

"I served Queen and country for 22 years, I never ever, ever thought that I would be treated like this in return," Farthing told Good Morning Britain Tuesday of the mission, which he has dubbed "Operation Ark."

Responding to the remarks, Wallace took to Twitter the same day to share his side of the story and explain the logic for the decision as it stands.

"Now that Pen Farthing's staff have been cleared to come forward under LOTR I have authorized MOD to facilitate their processing alongside all other eligible personnel at HKIA. At that stage, if he arrives with his animals we will seek a slot for his plane," Wallace tweeted Tuesday.

"If he does not have his animals with him he and his staff can board an RAF flight. I have been consistent all along, ensuring those most at risk are processed first and that the limiting factor has been flow THROUGH to airside NOT airplane capacity," the secretary said. "No one has the right in this humanitarian crisis to jump the queue," Wallace added.

Speaking to ITV News Wednesday, Farthing stressed that the situation is dire.

"We don't have a plane in the coming days, right now there is a rift between Boris Johnson and the Ministry of Defense," he told the outlet. "My direct line to the MoD has been cut off, they have left me, one of their own out here on their own."

Pen Farthing with fighting dog Nowzad in Afghanistan
Matt Austin/Shutterstock

President Joe Biden said the U.S. is not planning to stay beyond the previously set Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline but is working to ensure Americans and allies can leave the country. The Taliban has insisted all foreign troops must be out of Afghanistan by that date.

As international evacuations continue, Taliban checkpoints surrounding the Kabul airport — where people have reportedly been beaten as they try and pass through — have made it increasingly difficult for Afghans to leave.

If you would like to support those in need during the upheaval in Afghanistan, consider:

* Donating to UNICEF to aid Afghans in the country or

* Donating to the International Refugee Assistance Project to help those fleeing.

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