Former UK soldier finally escapes Afghanistan with his 200 dogs and cats

As the situation in Afghanistan becomes increasingly hostile and the deadline for evacuations draw closer, there is one man’s plight that ha...

As the situation in Afghanistan becomes increasingly hostile and the deadline for evacuations draw closer, there is one man’s plight that has gone viral on the internet, as he refused to leave his animal shelter behind.

Meet Pen Farthing, the former British Royal Marine who now runs Nowzad, Afghanistan’s only dog and cat shelter.

Who is this animal lover?

Paul ‘Pen Farthing, 52, is an ex-Royal Marine commando who set up Nowzad animal shelter near Kabul after serving in the military there in 2006.

Speaking of his shelter, Farthing said that while he served and was on duty in 2006, he helped break up a fight between two stray dogs and following this one of the strays started following him. Farthing then named the canine Nowzad after the town they were in and that’s when the idea of the shelter came in.


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Farthing is also an author of three books based on this experience: One Dog at a Time: Saving the strays of Helmand – An Inspiring True Story (2009), No Place Like Home: A New Beginning with the Dogs of Afghanistan (2010) and Wylie: The Brave Street Dog who Never Gave Up (2014). Farthing set up the animal shelter in 2007 and looks to reunite former servicemen and women with pets they have met while on tour. The shelter also helps to rescue stray cats and dogs and provide them with food and shelter. Getting out of Afghanistan Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Farthing has been trying to get his 200 cats and dogs evacuated along with his Afghan staff and their families. Fearing the lives of his animals and the Afghan staff, he also attemped to arrange a freedom flight in an operation dubbed 'Operation Ark'. He had chartered a $500,000 plane to land at Kabul airport for the rescue operation and also made a plea to the Taliban spokesperson on Twitter to ensure safe passage into Kabul airport. Addressing the Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, Farthing said: "Dear Sir; my team and my animals are stuck at airport circle. We have a flight waiting. Can you please facilitate safe passage into the airport for our convoy?"

UK's defence secretary Ben Wallace initially dismissed Operation Ark, saying it would put 'people before pets' in the rush to flee Kabul.

He later agreed to 'seek a slot' for the plane carrying out the mercy mission, but insisted the convoy would not be able to jump the queue.

Caught in the bombings

On Thursday, Farthing was caught in the chaos when two explosions took place at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, killing over 170 people, including 13 US troops.

Describing the ordeal, he told BBC, "All hell broke loose at the airport circle which is where I was, which is probably about a mile from the explosions across at the Abbey Gate and we had Taliban there firing into the air.

"One let off a full magazine on automatic from his AK-47 right next to the window of our bus where we had women and children in.

"And as we were trying to then flee from the airport we were getting tear-gassed so we were obviously trying to drive the vehicle when we can't see anything. It was just the most horrific thing."

The 52-year-old later stated that he was denied entry to the aiporrt due to a change in paperwork rules. He blamed US president Joe Biden, saying he "went through hell" to reach the airport and was turned away as the US government had changed paperwork rules just two hours earlier.

Farthing took to Twitter on Friday morning to say that he and his whole team, along with the animals, were safely inside the airport perimeter when he was told that Biden had "changed policy" on who could leave. He said they were "turned away into the chaos of those devastating explosions."

When questioned as to why he was not escorted by the British government, Farthing said that the US controlled the Kabul airport internally, so their rules "trumped" the British paperwork he carried.

Escape, at last!

It was reported by the Daily Mail that Farthing and his furry friends finally looked to be on their way home.

According to Farthing's wife, Kaisa Markhus, he was planning another attempt and late on Friday, he made it through the Taliban checkpoints and boarded a flight with 150 rescue cats and dogs -- but he was forced to leave his staff members behind.

Farthing flew out of Afghanistan for Tashkent in Uzbekistan with 94 dogs and 79 cats on a private jet and will later return to Britain.

Animal rights campaigner Dominic Dyer told the Mail: "We are very pleased we’ve got him out and are very grateful to the British government for their help, and for the support of the armed forces."

Inputs from agencies

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India World News: Former UK soldier finally escapes Afghanistan with his 200 dogs and cats
Former UK soldier finally escapes Afghanistan with his 200 dogs and cats
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