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  • War in Afghanistan (2001-present)

image sourceNowzadimage captionPen Farthing insists he will not leave Afghanistan without his staff and the charity's rescued animals

A former Royal Marine who founded an animal welfare charity in Kabul has said he is now "in talks" with the Foreign Office about getting his staff out of Afghanistan.

Paul "Pen" Farthing said 68 workers and their families were being processed, so they could "hopefully" come to the UK.

He said it was "an absolute result", before thanking campaigners and asking them to stop contacting No 10.

The Foreign Office confirmed it was in contact with Mr Farthing.

A spokeswoman added it was "working closely with the Home Office to offer assistance".

  • Ex-marine: I'm not leaving Kabul without my staff
  • The desperate scramble to escape Afghanistan
  • Chaos at Kabul airport amid scramble to evacuate

Mr Farthing set up his charity Nowzad 15 years ago, and it has helped raise awareness of animal welfare in Afghanistan and rescued stray dogs and abused donkeys.

He recently made an impassioned plea to the UK government to help his Afghan staff escape the Taliban, insisting he would not leave without them or the charity's animals.

Mr Farthing, who served with the Royal Marines as a commando in the Afghan province of Helmand in the mid-2000s, told BBC News on Saturday that the charity was now "in talks" with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Overseas Development Office to have staff processed and vetted before they could "hopefully" travel to the UK.

"We're just waiting for that process to finish. Hopefully, I've been told, it shouldn't take too long. So everyone can stop emailing the prime minister for now, I'm sure he'll be quite relieved about that," he added.

Mr Farthing said he had been offered a UK repatriation flight, but that he would not abandon his staff who were the "innocent victims" of a "complete and utter disastrous policy on Afghanistan" which he blamed on US President Joe Biden.

media caption"You've seen my British passport, these are my children"

Earlier, Mr Farthing warned the "humanitarian crisis" in Afghanistan was "getting out of control", adding the biggest problem in Kabul was the closure of the banks – which had been shut for five or six days.

"I can't draw money out of the banks, I can't pay my staff salaries, nobody can buy food. This is just turning into a disaster upon a disaster," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

He added that he and his staff could not get into Kabul airport "without putting our lives at risk" and said they were considering how they could break into the airport.

"I'm past angry, I'm past everything, I'm just completely numb at the incompetence of this operation," Mr Farthing said.

"I've got women and young children here. I'm not leaving without them, they're coming with me. Right now, they're terrified, absolutely terrified. There's no assurances that they're going to be OK if they stayed here."

Since seizing control of the capital almost a week ago, the Taliban have insisted there would be no revenge attacks on anyone who worked with Western authorities and that women's rights would be respected "within the framework of Islamic law".

On Thursday, Mr Farthing wrote on Twitter that his wife, Kaisa, had made it on to an evacuation flight out of the capital, Kabul.

Kaisa is on her way home! BUT this aircraft is empty…scandalous as thousands wait outside #Kabul airport being crushed as they cannot get in Sadly people will be left behind when this mission is over as we CANNOT get it right 💔@SecDef @VP @cnnbrk @BBCBreaking @SkyNews @itvnews pic.twitter.com/FoAxFrzT1K

— Pen Farthing (@PenFarthing) August 19, 2021
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Sharing a photograph of the "empty" flight, he said the situation was "scandalous as thousands wait outside Kabul airport being crushed as they cannot get in", before warning people would get "left behind" in Afghanistan.

However, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has insisted that no plane carrying Britons and Afghans to the UK has left Kabul empty, adding the government was "absolutely ploughing through the numbers".

There have been chaotic scenes outside Kabul airport as thousands of Afghans have desperately sought to flee and governments have scrambled to evacuate their citizens and eligible Afghan colleagues.

media captionBen Wallace: "Every hour counts" of Kabul evacuation

About 4,500 US troops are in temporary control of Hamid Karzai International Airport, with about 900 British soldiers also on patrol at the site as part of efforts to secure the evacuation flights.

Taliban militants have been manning checkpoints around the perimeter of the airport and blocking Afghans without travel documents from entering.

Twelve people have been killed in and around Kabul airport since Sunday, according to a Taliban official quoted by the Reuters news agency.

But even those with valid papers have struggled to get to the airport, with reports that some have been beaten by Taliban guards.

The US embassy in Afghanistan has issued a security alert advising American citizens not to travel to Kabul airport, warning of "potential security threats outside the gates", while other countries, including Switzerland and Germany, have raised concerns about the situation outside the airport.

image captionThousands are attempting to escape

As of Friday, BBC Defence Correspondent Jonathan Beale said Britain had flown 2,400 people out of Kabul since Sunday – 599 of them UK nationals.

Since late June, 2,000 Afghans who worked for the UK have been resettled with their families under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), according to the Home Office, with a target of 5,000 by the end of 2021.

The UK has also committed to take in up to 20,000 Afghan refugees over the next few years under a separate resettlement scheme – including 5,000 this year.

Meanwhile in Glasgow, politicians and members of the public have gathered at a rally to express their solidarity with the people of Afghanistan.