He’s been hailed a hero for orchestrating a monumental evacuation of hundreds of animals out of Afghanistan – but not everyone was happy with the former soldier’s efforts.
The UK government continues to face criticism over its evacuation out of Afghanistan with one former soldier finding himself – and his animals – at the centre of the debate.
UK soldiers managed to evacuate more than 15,000 people over the past two weeks with the hurried withdrawal kicking off when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan earlier this month.
Despite the massive group that made it out of Afghanistan, it’s believed hundreds of people that helped the UK over the past 20 years, and were eligible for relocation, were left behind.
The Observer, a newspaper in the UK, quoted a whistleblower who said thousands of emails from MPs and charities to the foreign ministry highlighting specific Afghans at risk from the Taliban takeover were unopened.
“They cannot possibly know (how many people have been left behind) because they haven’t even read the emails,” the whistleblower was quoted as saying.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the mission was “unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes” after the final troops landed in southern England on Sunday.
UK Officials have given varying estimates of how many eligible Afghans did not board evacuation flights, the last of which left on Saturday, with the head of the UK armed forces General Sir Nick Carter putting this “in the high hundreds”.
The report that hundreds of Afghans were left behind was revealed the same time public opinion began to splinter against the high-profile campaign of ex-serviceman, Paul or “Pen” Farthing.
Mr Farthing runs a British animal charity and launched a campaign to evacuate his animals and staff from a shelter in Kabul, started after he served in Afghanistan.
The charity, called Nowzad and set up in 2007, was dedicated to rescuing stray and abandoned animals in Afghanistan.
Mr Farthing managed to fly out on a privately chartered plane on Saturday with around 150 cats and dogs on board, landing at Heathrow on Sunday morning.
He was hailed as a hero by supporters but opponents questioned the ethics of using official time and military support to evacuate animals as Afghans remained behind.
Tom Tugendhat, a Conservative MP and head of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, told LBC Radio that an Afghan interpreter who had worked for the UK asked him: “Why is my five-year-old worth less than your dog?”
Richard Dannatt, a former head of the British army, told Times Radio that it “looks odd that we’re giving prominence to a man and a lot of cats and dogs”, while adding he doubted Mr Farthing’s flight prevented any Afghans leaving.
The focus should be on why Britain did not prepare better while knowing the danger faced by former interpreters and other locally hired civilians, Gen Lord Dannatt said.
He called for an inquiry into why the evacuation “happened in such a haphazard and chaotic fashion”.