A former British Royal Marine attempting to flee Kabul with hundreds of cats and dogs has managed to leave the country on a charter flight along with his animals.
But Paul "Pen" Farthing’s entourage of Afghan charity workers has yet to reach the airport after being blocked at the perimeter.
Mr Farthing’s pressure campaign has put him at loggerheads with UK defence officials. His case has generated both sympathy and controversy in Britain.
It comes amid reports he left expletive-laden message for a Government aide as he sought to place his staff and pets on a flight out of the country.
The Times newspaper said it had obtained a leaked audio recording of Mr Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who he accused of “blocking” efforts to arrange a flight.
In the recorded message, reportedly sent on Monday, Mr Farthing threatened to “destroy” Mr Quentin on social media if he did not help arrange the evacuation.
Late on Friday, the Ministry of Defence said Mr Farthing and his animals – earlier reported to be around 200 cats and dogs – had been processed at Kabul airport by members of the British military.
Mr Wallace gave permission for them to leave on a charter flight, the ministry said, after private donors raised money for a plane.
Mr Farthing said some of his staff had come to the airport but were not allowed to cross a line separating Taliban and British control.
This came amid chaos in Kabul after a terrorist attack at the gates.
“It is just so depressing I had to leave them behind,” Mr Farthing said of his staff, after arriving at the terminal.
“There were lots of tears when we said goodbye,” he told The Sun. “I feel very sad for them [but] I’m relieved for me and I feel happy for the animals.”
The UK government has said that the 25 staff and their families are eligible to come to Britain, but might not make it out during the Nato airlift.
Western countries hope to keep extracting people after the military withdrawal on August 31 by persuading the Taliban to allow commercial flights.
Mr Farthing’s critics say he is prioritising pets over people. He rejects this, arguing that rescue animals in the cargo hold do not block space for humans.
His supporters have heavily lobbied UK ministers on behalf of the staff and animals at the charity, Nowzad.
Mr Wallace rejected claims that he had obstructed their escape, but said a chartered plane did not allow Mr Farthing’s retinue to skip the chaotic queue in Kabul.
Member of Parliament Tom Tugendhat, the chair of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee, said the issue was not about the planes but shepherding people to the tarmac.
“The difficulty is getting people into and out of the airport, and we’ve just used a lot of troops to bring in 200 dogs,” he said on Saturday.
“What would you say if I sent an ambulance to save my dog rather than to save your mother?,” he asked a radio host.