'Operation Ark is now a success' - Former Plymouth marine Pen Farthing praises rescue effort

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Former Plymouth Royal Marine Pen Farthing has said that the operation to rescue his staff and hundreds of animals from Afghanistan has finally been a success.

Mr Farthing had been forced to leave his staff, volunteers and animals at his Nowzad charity shelter in the country in August.

He was able to secure visas for his 24 staff and their families but when they arrived at Kabul Airport the Taliban refused to let the staff board claiming they didn't have the correct paperwork.

It meant that he was forced to leave them behind after weeks of campaigning and support from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and members in the UK Government.

Now the centre and the staff are working in the UK with some of his volunteers happy to be reunited with the animals that were rescued during the 'Operation Ark'.

Pen Farthing at the headquarters of his Nowzad animal rescue charity in Kabul. Credit: PA

Pen himself said that the evacuation from the country can now be seen as a success after helping to provide a new life for those rescued.

"I don't think I can put it in to words," he said.

"It means a lot, our female staff were terrified. To be able to them out and to get them to a country where they will have so opportunities.

"They are full into wanting to make lives here in the UK a success, to contribute and to give back."

For those volunteers though it has been difficult to forget about the horrors they have left behind. Some still have family and friends who were not able to escape the country after the Taliban overthrew the government in the summer.

Pen's wife Kaisa, who was vocal in trying to gain support for his efforts when he was stuck in Afghanistan with his team, has said that meeting the group recently was 'very emotional'.

"It is amazing to see all the people," she said.

"I met them all on the first day and I started to cry, so emotional. The last time I saw them was under dire circumstances and now the next time I see them they are safe which is really good."

Three of the charity's vets say they are working towards getting their British veterinarian qualifications so they can continue helping animals.