Ex-Marine from Plymouth trapped in Afghanistan desperate to get staff to safety

Former marine Pen Farthing at his animal sanctuary in Afghanistan in 2017.
Pen with some of the animals he rescued in Afghanistan in 2017

A former Royal Marine from Plymouth says he will not leave Afghanistan until all of the staff from his animal rescue charity are also able to get out of the country.

Paul 'Pen' Farthing set up the Nowzad sanctuary in Kabul and is now pleading with the UK government to step in to help his staff flee the Taliban, which has taken control.

He is calling for the more than 70 people and their families to be flown to the UK from Afghanistan.

Mr Farthing set up the charity in 2006 to increase awareness of animal welfare and to rescue stray dogs.

Nowzad's clinic also trained the country's first fully-qualified female vets but their futures are now at risk.

Mr Farthing said: "I'm definitely angry, I'm holding that back for the moment. Now it's just anxiety and just worry, because I want to get my staff out of here, so until they leave, I am not leaving.

"I am not leaving them behind to a fate I cannot even imagine. So I need the Prime Minister, and I need the ministers, to do the right thing."

Mr Farthing's wife, who is stuck in Afghanistan with him, was nearly crushed at the airport in Kabul as thousands attempted to leave the country.

"Thankfully, she's safe now. No physical injuries, but obviously terrified. I was too because at points I had no idea where she was. So we're both safe, and we're going to reassess the situation before we attempt to get her to Kabul for an evacuation flight.

"She actually works for another NGO out here in Afghanistan. It was the Norwegian Embassy, because she's Norwegian, who'd asked her to get to the airport to get on a repatriation flight to Norway. She just couldn't get in when they got there. There were just so many thousands of desperate people trying to get into the airport."

  • Pen Farthing talks to ITV

Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed to "do everything" possible to help Mr Farthing and others like him at an emergency parliamentary sitting on Afghanistan in Parliament on Wednesday 18 August.

Responding to a question about Mr Farthing situation, Mr Johnson said: "I think, like many of us I have been extensively lobbied on behalf of the excellent work done by Mr Pen Farthing. I'm well aware of his cause and all the wonderful things he has done.

"I can tell my honourable friend we will do everything we can to help Mr Farthing and others who face particular difficulty like himself."

  • Boris Johnson speaks on Mr Farthing's situation in Parliament

But Mr Farthing says he will only believe the Prime Minister's words when it is confirmed his staff can fly out of the country.

"I'm a true believer that words really don't count, it's the actions that mean a lot.

"Until I see some action, until I get somebody ringing me up and saying 'right, your 71 staff members and their families are going to be flown to the United Kingdom', then, and only then, will I start celebrating.

"He mentioned my name in parliament but I still haven't seen any action, I'm still sat here waiting to find out whether my team are actually going to be safe or whether they're going to have to bow down to the Taliban and live life under an absolutely barbaric rule."

Pen served with Plymouth based 42 Commando and lost two fellow Marines while on deployment to Afghanistan.

He said: "When I get home, I imagine like so many other veterans of Afghanistan who lost friends, colleagues, I'll sit and probably there will be a few tears because if we've all left and this is now back in the hands of the Taliban, the last twenty years was for nothing.

"People lost their lives in vain, there is no way of getting around that. It's just shameful, embarrassing - it should never had happened. The West needs to hang its head in shame."