Plane plan to pick up Nowzad veteran – but Kabul airport still ‘main obstacle’

Progress is being made in the operation to evacuate a former marine turned charity director and his staff from Afghanistan, but the ongoing chaos at Kabul airport is still the “main obstacle” preventing their escape, his campaigner has said.

Paul Farthing, known as “Pen”, has been battling to get all of his 25 staff from animal welfare charity Nowzad, their families and more than 100 dogs and cats out of the country as the Taliban complete their takeover.

Dominic Dyer, who has been campaigning for Mr Farthing, told PA that all 68 people in his entourage should have visas “within the next 24 hours” and that an aeroplane with “significant capacity” for them and the animals is being deployed in the coming days.

As the chaos at Kabul Airport shows no sign of letting up, Mr Farthing said he feels “completely numb at the incompetence” of the Government’s efforts so far.

The veteran said he is facing the sixth day without access to money via the banks, which he said have closed amid the Taliban takeover, and his female staff in particular feel “absolutely terrified”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said the International Monetary Fund is stopping money coming into Afghanistan, turning the situation into a “disaster upon a disaster”.

Mr Farthing added: “The humanitarian crisis here now is getting out of control and I don’t see anybody, any politicians, at all doing anything about it.

“We can’t leave the country because we can’t get into the airport without putting our lives at risk.

“You’ve all seen the scenes – it is not different today to any other time, it is just getting worse.

“This is ridiculous. I’m past angry, I’m past everything – I’m just completely numb at the incompetence of this operation.”

He added: “We don’t have time here. We are literally trying to plan how we are going to break in to Kabul airport.

“I’ve got women and young children here. I’m not leaving without them, they’re coming with me.

“Right now, they’re terrified, absolutely terrified. There’s no assurances that they’re going to be OK if they stayed here.”

Mr Dyer told PA he is seeing “a lot more co-operation from the British Government” including “direct involvement” from Environment Secretary George Eustice.

Speaking from Milton Keynes, he said a “wealthy investor in the United States” is now helping fund the mission.

He said the “main obstacle” is still “getting through the airport” where thousands of desperate people are scrambling to escape.

He said: “Defra are helping us now in terms of all the issues around the dogs coming – the rabies control and quarantine rules.

“We have an aeroplane, an A340 airbus, with significant capacity for the people and the animals.

“We are hopeful that all 68 people will be approved for visas, we can’t leave anybody out, so we need that completely.”

He added: “The one thing that we’ve begun to see is that the Americans began to deploy Chinooks, and the French and Germans have smaller capacity helicopters.

“We don’t have any helicopters in that theatre at all because we removed them all weeks before this operation started, which sounds absolutely ridiculous.”