'People over pets' - Defence Secretary on 'confusion' around Pen Farthing's flight out of Kabul

UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on GMB (left). Pen Farthing speaks to ITV (right). Credit: ITV

The UK’s Defence Secretary has hit back after being criticised for not supporting a former Royal Marine in Afghanistan.

Paul Farthing, known as Pen, is attempting to get volunteers and animals based at his charity in Kabul out of the country following the Taliban’s takeover.

Pen is originally from Plymouth and so, as a British citizen is able to leave Afghanistan. But he has said he will not desert his staff and animals at the shelter he set up int he mid-2000s.

The 52-year-old claims his evacuation plans - which included chartering a $500,000 plane - have been delayed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace responded to those claims when he appeared on Good Morning Britain on Tuesday 24 August, suggesting there had been “confusion” surrounding the proposed evacuation.

UK military taking part in the evacuation at Kabul Airport, Afghanistan.

‘You wouldn’t expect me to push people out of the way for animals’

“This is not about flights coming into the airport - there are flights leaving all of the time, there is space on flights when they are not full,” he told GMB.

“This is about processing people at the airport and getting people through those gates.

“Pen was offered a flight. He’s a British passport holder, his wife left on Friday, and we encourage him strongly to make his way to the airport and take that.

“At the moment, he has chosen to stay with both the animals and the pets as well as his personnel.

"There are people we have to prioritise at the moment to get them out of the country.

"It doesn’t matter how many charter planes you fly in. It takes a minimum of 24 hours for some of these people to queue, to get to the airport and get through the Taliban checkpoints.

“But I’m afraid when it comes to the animals, I have to prioritise people over them. 

“There are some very scared and very worried people and you wouldn’t expect me to push those people out of the way to make way for animals.”