Ben Wallace dismisses Pen Farthing’s ‘cut off’ claims
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Defence Secretary Ben Wallace shocked LBC listeners when he branded Pen Farthing’s claims he has been abandoned by the MoD as “B*****ks” before explaining he has been offered an evacuation out of Kabul. Mr Wallace said in an earlier interview that the private plane rented by Mr Farthing to evacuate his animals and team from Afghanistan would hold up efforts on the runway and could not allow the plane to land in Kabul as gates remain crammed with people. The minister said he needed to “prioritise people over pets” as Mr Farthing has been prevented from putting his animals on government flights.
Mr Farthing who runs animal charity Nowzad, paid for a private jet to pick him, his team, and rescued animals out of Kabul as he was unable to put his animals on government flights.
He said the jet would also carry some evacuees with the animals being placed in the cargo hold but visas have not been granted for the planes to land in Afghanistan as he says the UK Government does not want animals returning to Britain.
LBC host Nick Ferrari read out a tweet from Mr Farthing to Mr Wallace where he said he was “left behind enemy lines” and now is unable to leave the country.
During a Sky News interview, Mr Farthing said he would put all his animals to sleep on the Kabul runway if he was unable to board his plane.
Mr Wallace replied: “Well first of all that’s b*****ks Nick. I’ve been watching and listening to that, Pen was offered and contacted on Friday to be brought forward to fly, his wife left on Friday.
“We have said that he will be eligible, he is a British passport holder and I strongly advise him to come to the airport and to take advantage of the route out.”
Mr Ferrari could be seen scrambling at the outburst as he was caught unawares.
Mr Wallace continued: “His personnel of 68 people will be eligible to come out but this is not about simply the issue of a plane coming in this is about the flow of those gates.
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“My advisors don’t stop anyone, they don’t make those decisions, the airport is run by the United States.
“This is not about a plane you charter coming in this is about whether when he turns up will he get processed and put on a plane, will his people get processed on a plane.
“I simply have to prioritise people over animals, I have some really desperate people in that queue who are really under threat of life and death and if we don’t get them out their future is very very bleak.
“I simply have to prioritise those people over pets but it doesn’t mean to say we don’t care about animals.”
In a separate interview with Sky News, Mr Farthing explained what his plans were and how he wanted to help the situation in Kabul.
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He said: “It’s a privately funded aircraft, I only want to take out 69 people and the cargo hold is empty so we’re going to put dogs and cats into it.
“No taxpayer money will go into this. We’ve got 130 spare seats on that aircraft we can fill with people entitled to come to Britain.”
The former Marine believes the UK Government do not want the flight to land at Kabul because they do not want animals to return to Britain.
Mr Wallace told Sky News he was concerned that the private plane would hold up evacuation efforts as it would take a long time for people to be processed and eventually board the jet.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to put pressure on President Joe Biden to extend the August 31 military withdrawal date to help evacuations.
The full US withdrawal from Afghanistan is set to occur on September 11 with troops leaving the country on August 31.
But the Taliban have said there will be “consequence” if the US stays beyond the August 31 date.
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