Ex-Marine Says Half-Empty Planes Leaving Kabul Amid Horrific Scenes, Slams 'Screw-Up of Evacuation'
Western governments have been engaged in a frantic effort to bring citizens home from Afghanistan as well as Afghan colleagues who worked with foreign forces in the past two decades. The Taliban, the Islamist group now in control of the country, is reported to be controlling access to the airport, currently run by specially deployed US troops.
Paul 'Pen' Farthing, a former Royal Marine, has been fuming at the “scandal” that aircraft are taking off from Kabul airport every hour "regardless of whether they're full or not", reported Sky News.
"People can't get in, they cannot get into the airport," said the man who founded an animal sanctuary Nowzad Charity in Kabul and has vowed to help his 71 Afghan staff members and their families flee Afghanistan's capital Kabul. Nowzad, founded in 2006 and registered in the UK and the United States, cares for stray animals in Kabul, as well as arranging for cats and dogs to be adopted overseas.
In a video posted on the charity's website, Farthing said that the Taliban had moved in to the building next door, prompting him to speed up efforts to help staff leave.
“For us here at Nowzad we're coming to the end game. I cannot leave until my staff have left Afghanistan. They are not safe here,” he said.
Farthing described to the outlet his pre-dawn endeavor to reach Kabul airport on Thursday to evacuate his wife Kaisa.
‘Absolutely Terrifying’ Situation
Speaking from Afghanistan's capital, Farthing, who served in the Helmand province in the mid-2000s, said they opted to make the journey while it was still dark, to dodge huge crowds of "at least a couple of thousand people" milling outside the airport daily.
"Going at night obviously has its own hazards - it was the choice of two evils and thankfully it paid off," he was cited as saying.
The veteran managed to get his pregnant country manager and her young son to the airport "very, very early this morning before other people had come out to make their own attempt".
While Farthing’s wife managed to board a C-17 Globemaster military transport aircraft to fly to her native Norway, he insisted that the plane appeared to be almost empty, despite thousands struggling to leave the country that has been taken over by the Taliban* Islamist group. The ex-marine said that another person he knew had been unable to get “within one mile" of the airport.
© REUTERS / Defense OneEvacuees crowd the interior of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying some 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul, Afghanistan August 15, 2021. Picture taken August 15, 2021
Evacuees crowd the interior of a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft, carrying some 640 Afghans to Qatar from Kabul, Afghanistan August 15, 2021. Picture taken August 15, 2021
© REUTERS / Defense One
"We are going to leave people behind, that is an absolute given," he said of the "heartbreaking" situation in Kabul, adding:
"This is an absolute screw-up of an evacuation. We are going to be watching some absolutely horrific scenes."
The marine veteran revealed that he was "absolutely dreading" having to make the perilous journey to the airport in an attempt to help evacuate his remaining staff, adding that outside the airport, there is "no control".
Farthing, who earlier vowed he would not leave the war-torn country until his staff were safe, said:
"We devastated their country in one fell swoop and I'm not going to do the same as politicians. The governments that are involved in this... they're sat there now with no idea how they're going to evacuate."
US President Joe Biden said his country was committed to getting every American out of Afghanistan - even if it means potentially extending the mission beyond his August 31 deadline for a total withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the UK government has reportedly voiced concerns that if American forces currently deployed to Kabul international airport to ensure security were to leave sooner, the evacuation of thousands of people would be endangered, reported The Guardian.
Pen Farthing called for the UK government to evacuate his staff. Answering questions in the House of Commons during tWednesday’s emergency debate on Afghanistan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed that he had already been contacted about the charity and was aware of its “excellent work”.
“I think like many of us I have been extensively lobbied on behalf of the excellent work done by Mr Pen Farthing. I am well aware of his cause and all the wonderful things that he has done. As for animals in Afghanistan, I can tell my honourable friend that we will do everything we can to help Mr Pen Farthing, and others who face particular difficulty like him.”
All well and good recognising me @BorisJohnson but we need you to commit to giving our @Nowzad team a new live in the UK. Today would be nice to hear this news.. (@SarBritcliffeMP 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼😍) https://t.co/YIx4SxHYwz— Pen Farthing (@PenFarthing) August 18, 2021
However, a desperate Farting was cited by Sky News as saying:
“We'll have left people behind and I can see soldiers will be seriously injured on the last day as the last planes take off."
Scenes of Chaos
The Western-backed Afghan government collapsed after Taliban’s swift offensive in the wake of the withdrawing US and NATO troops. The group completed their offensive, taking control of Kabul on 15 August.
© AFP 2023 / WAKIL KOHSARAfghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the airport in Kabul on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan's 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city's airport trying to flee the group's feared hardline brand of Islamist rule
© AFP 2023 / WAKIL KOHSAR
There is now a desperate race to get Americans, western nationals and Afghans who helped troops during the past two decades out of the country. Chaotic scenes have been reported outside Kabul international airport, with footage showing people clinging to US planes as they left, leading to some reported deaths, in the immediate aftermath of the seizure of the capital. At least 12 people are said to have died in and around the airport since Sunday.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia and many other countries.