Afghanistan: Anger as image shows near-empty rescue flight leaving Kabul

Former marine warns ‘people will be left behind’ after wife evacuated on plane with dozens of spare seats

Tim Wyatt
Friday 20 August 2021 10:33
<p>Only a handful of passengers can be seen on a rescue flight leaving Afghanistan, in this image tweeted by Paul Farthing</p>

Only a handful of passengers can be seen on a rescue flight leaving Afghanistan, in this image tweeted by Paul Farthing

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A former Royal Marine has warned “people will be left behind” in Afghanistan, after sharing an image of the near-empty rescue flight that took his wife home.

Paul Farthing, who runs the animal welfare charity Nowzad, has been working to save his wife, dozens of staff members and their families since the Taliban swept back to power last week.

On Thursday evening he tweeted his wife Kaisa was on board a plane flying to her native Norway, but said the aircraft’s hundreds of seats were otherwise empty despite the thousands of Afghans desperate to escape Kabul.

“Kaisa is on her way home! BUT this aircraft is empty…scandalous as thousands wait outside #Kabul airport being crushed as they cannot get in Sadly people will be left behind when this mission is over as we CANNOT get it right,” he posted on Twitter, including a picture of the inside of the aeroplane and its rows and rows of empty seats.

Mr Farthing told Sky News he and his wife had decided to brave Kabul’s streets at night to reach the safety of the airport, the only part of Afghanistan still controlled by Western forces.

This was because it had become impossible to get into the airport at day due to the thousands of Afghans who crowded the gates trying to force their way in through the American and British troops guarding the runways.

"Going at night obviously has its own hazards – it was the choice of two evils and thankfully it paid off”, he said.

Mr Farthing, who earlier had vowed not to leave the country until his staff and their dependants are safe, said flights were taking off "regardless of whether they’re full or not", adding: "We are going to leave people behind, that is an absolute given.”

Unconfirmed reports from Kabul have suggested Taliban fighters are already searching door-to-door for locals who worked with Western forces or whose charities contradicted the group’s austere and fundamentalist brand of Islam.

Despite the militants’ spokespeople insisting there would be no reprisals, the German broadcaster DW has reported Taliban gunmen searching for one of their Afghan journalists have shot several members of his family, killing one and wounding another, in Kabul. The journalist has already escaped to Germany.

The defence secretary Ben Wallace has insisted Britain is using all the space available on each flight and was attempting to ensure “not a single seat is wasted”.

However, many of the planes departing Kabul are reportedly leaving Afghanistan with dozens if not hundreds of empty seats.

One German aircraft which can carry 150 reportedly took off with only seven people on board.

A Government spokesperson said earlier: "Departments across Whitehall have been working intensively at all levels in the last few days and weeks on the situation in Afghanistan.

"Thanks to these efforts, we have relocated over 2,000 Afghans to the UK since June, evacuated over 400 British nationals and their families on RAF flights since Sunday and established one of the most generous asylum schemes in British history."

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