Boris Johnson 'authorised' Afghan animal rescue despite denials - here's how people are reacting

Boris Johnson 'authorised' Afghan animal rescue despite denials - here's how people are reacting
December 2021: Boris denies intervening in evacuation of animals from Afghanistan
BBC News

Boris Johnson has flat out denied he personally authorised the rescue of animals from a British animal charity in Afghanistan - but now leaked emails by a whistleblower appear to claim otherwise.

On Wednesday (January 26) the foreign affairs select committee - who are investigating the withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer - released two emails that suggest the PM was in fact personally involved with the evacuation of 173 cats and dogs from Nowzad charity, run by former Royal Marine Pen Farthing, when the Taliban took over Kabul.

Downing Street and Farthing have denied these allegations.

One email from an official in Zac Goldsmith's office sent back on August 25, read: “Equivalent charity Nowzad, run by an ex-Royal Marine, has received a lot of publicity and the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated, [animal charity – name redacted] are hoping to be treated in the same capacity."

That same day, another sent email between Foreign Office officials reiterates the claim that the PM was in fact involved with the evacuation, the second email read: “In light of the PM’s decision earlier today to evacuate the staff of the Nowzad animal charity, the [animal charity – name redacted] is asking for agreement to the entry of [details redacted] staff, all Afghan nationals.”

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Though it seems Johnson had a different recollection of events when quizzed on 7 December last year about his involvement, Johnson replied: "That is complete nonsense."

“At no point did the prime minister intervene. We have always prioritised people over animals," Downing Street said on the same day.

Their position remained the same on Wednesday as the PM's spokesperson said: "It remains the case that the PM didn't instruct officials to take any particular course of action," BBCreported.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace backed up the PM on Tuesday and told the committee: "No one lobbied me … The prime minister didn’t ring up. At no stage, at any stage, did the prime minister ask me to make a way for those pets. Not at all. Never."

Lord Goldsmith also denied involvement and tweeted: "I never discussed the NOWZAD charity or their efforts to evacuate animals with the PM."

Farthing had launched a high profile campaign at the time to raise money to help both charity staff and rescue animals flee the country and they were able to charter a plane as a result of the donations.

Both Farthing and ministers were criticised at the time after the charity boss was forced to leave 67 Nowzad staff members behind after they were prevented from entering the military-controlled area at Kabul airport despite having been granted visas for the UK, Independentreported.

He claimed in an interview with Good Morning Britain in August last year the charity was turned down by the government when they offered spare seats on the plane to British evacuees.

"The tremendous teamwork shown by many volunteers to facilitate the evacuation of the Nowzad staff and their families, myself and the animals should be applauded not used as a deflection for failings across the board in Afghanistan," Farthing said in a statement to the committee where he denied any UK government help in his evacuation.

The staff members were eventually evacuated safely by land to Pakistan and then travelled to the UK.

As a result of these unearthed emails coming to light, the PM is being criticised for lying about his involvement and also prioritising animals over the lives of Afghans desperate to flee the chaos.

On the other hand, there were some people who defended Farthing.

In a statement posted to their website, Nowzad said: "Once more the Nowzad charity is appalled to find ourselves at the centre of a political media debate on who did what and when in relation to Operation Ark.

"67 vulnerable Afghans were evacuated against all odds from Afghanistan by road to start new lives in the United Kingdom. This should be an achievement that is celebrated not used for political point scoring.

"As a charity, we had no oversight of any communication between any government departments relating to who authorised the call forward of the Nowzad staff.

"We found out at the same time as everyone else, when Ben Wallace tweeted our approval at 1.30am on the 25th August. Sadly, it was too late to ensure the evacuation flight that our supporters had fundraised for, would be able to transport our staff to safety.

"Only Pen Farthing (British passport holder) with the Nowzad rescued animals in the cargo hold, was able to leave Kabul airport after the British military had already ended Operation Pitting. No British military were put in harm’s way or supported Pen Farthing during his two attempts to gain access to Kabul airport."

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