Former UK marine vows to stay in Kabul with animal rescuers

Staff are sleeping at Afghan animal shelter because of safety fears after the Taliban took control of capital

The Nowzad charity in Kabul is trying to raise money to move staff and dozens of rescued animals out of Afghanistan. PA
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A former UK Royal Marine commando who runs an animal rescue shelter in Kabul says he will not leave the country until his Afghan staff are safe.

Paul Farthing said his workers were sleeping at the shelter because it was too dangerous to return home after the Taliban overran the Afghan capital.

He said the militants controlled access to Kabul’s airport, where chaos reigned on Monday as many Afghans tried to flee.

Nato troops were sent to secure a military section of the airport as the US and European countries worked to move their citizens to safety.

Mr Farthing, who said the Taliban rout made him ashamed to be British, urged the UK government to give the charity’s 25 staff and their families a way out of the country.

He said his staff were not safe after working for Nowzad, a charity he founded.

“We’ve got to get them out. We’ve got to get all of our staff out of Afghanistan and the only place we can get them right now is the UK,” said Mr Farthing, who served with British troops in Helmand province.

“I’m staying until I know these guys are safe. We’ve created this mess in Afghanistan. This could have been avoided, but it wasn’t.”

Dr Farzad Stanikzai, who works at the shelter, described scenes of distress as the Taliban took over Kabul.

“We have been through really bad times for the last couple of days. Everyone was in a panic and everyone was shocked,” he said.

“We are like a family here. Everyone is upset. All of us and even our families are at risk, and they are not feeling safe.”

Western countries are under pressure to help move Afghan civilians to safety, as well as their own citizens, as the last foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan.

The UK says that more than 2,000 Afghan staff who supported military operations in the country have been relocated to Britain this year.

Washington said 6,000 US troops would be sent to help American citizens and eligible Afghans to leave the country.

Commercial flights from Kabul airport were cancelled but the US government said it secured the runway for military flights.

Countries such as France, Germany and Australia organised special flights to rescue their citizens.

Nowzad said it was trying to move dozens of rescued cats and dogs out of Afghanistan, as well as getting rescue workers and their families to safety.

Mr Farthing appealed for donations so charity workers could hire a cargo plane and transport the animals out of the country.

The last 48 hours have been probably the most stressful and worrying of my life
Paul Farthing, Nowzad founder

Nowzad said it needed $200,000 to move the animals out of Kabul. Mr Farthing said it was the end of the road for the charity.

“I’m actually heart-broken. The last 48 hours have been probably the most stressful and worrying of my life,” he said.

“President Biden and all the other western leaders – I have absolutely no respect for them whatsoever.”

British actor Peter Egan, known for his role in Downton Abbey, offered his support to the charity and urged people to raise the alarm with the UK government.

“Let’s get the staff relocated to the UK. It can’t be that difficult,” he said.

Updated: August 17, 2021, 4:30 AM