Former Royal Marine ‘planning to break into Kabul airport’ as frustrations over evacuation effort grow

Charity founder said he won’t leave without his Afghan staff

Liam James
Saturday 21 August 2021 12:32
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'Tear gas and beatings' at Kabul airport

A British ex-Marine seeking to flee Afghanistan with dozens of others said he plans to break into Kabul airport to board a repatriation flight, as it remains inaccessible through ordinary routes.

Paul “Pen” Farthing, who founded the Nowzad animal rescue charity, said he and the staff of his Kabul sanctuary would have to risk their lives to access the UK government's evacuation operation.

Mr Farthing said he was trying to leave the country with 71 Nowzad staff members and their families, including children and young veterinary workers.

The crisis at Hamid Karzai International Airport has been getting worse, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme, after days of reports of people taking extreme measures to enter the airport, or at least secure access for their children. People must now pass through obstructive Taliban checkpoints to reach the airport.

“I actually got an email this morning,” Mr Farthing said. “It said, this is just for me, not for my staff: 'we have a repatriation flight for you, please get to the airport’.

”How would you like me to get into the airport? I'm past angry... I'm just completely numb at the incompetence of this operation.“

Asked by host Justin Webb if he and his staff were ”frightened“, Mr Farthing said they did not have time to be afraid.

”The second you start getting scared you stop thinking about things properly,” he said.

“We are literally trying to plan how we are going to break into Kabul airport. Can you believe I'm saying that to you?”

The former marine said he was “disgusted” by international withdrawal efforts, and that “someone, somewhere needs to get a grip.”

“I've no idea what our politicians, what the American politicians, are thinking,” he said.

He was particularly critical of the American decision to close Bagram Air Base – the US military's Afghan hub – which he said could have provided an additional two withdrawal points and alleviated the rush on Kabul airport.

Several government flights a day have been moving British and Afghan citizens from Kabul to the UK since evacuation operations began. Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Afghanistan, said the goal was to help 1,000 people get out each day.

Mr Farthing, who served in Helmand Province in 2006, earlier this week called on the British government to grant permission to his Afghan staff members to relocate to the UK.

He said staff were “terrified” and had received no assurances “they would be safe if they were to stay” in Afghanistan. His Afghan staff, including young female veterinarians, were at most risk from the Taliban, he said.

“Maybe I'm wrong, maybe in a year's time we find out the Taliban have changed. What I don't wanna be though is here with my staff to find out they haven't changed.“

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