Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

MPs suggest Johnson behind ‘mysterious intervention’ in Nowzad evacuation

Members of the UK Armed Forces help evacuate entitled personnel from Kabul airport (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright)
Members of the UK Armed Forces help evacuate entitled personnel from Kabul airport (LPhot Ben Shread/MoD/Crown Copyright)

MPs have pointed the finger at Boris Johnson for a “mysterious intervention” in an effort to evacuate staff from the Nowzad animal welfare charity from Afghanistan.

In a scathing report, a cross-party committee said the situation around Nowzad’s animals and staff highlighted the “arbitrary and chaotic” nature of the Foreign Office’s role in the evacuation process.

Downing Street has denied the Prime Minister played any role in prioritising the evacuation of Nowzad’s staff but the Foreign Affairs Committee said “multiple senior officials” believed he had and “we have yet to be offered a plausible alternative explanation”.

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
Pen Farthing, founder of animal rescue charity Nowzad (Nowzad/PA)

Mr Johnson personally dismissed as “total rhubarb” claims he was involved in prioritising the evacuation of animals over people.

Nowzad was set up by former Royal Marine Paul “Pen” Farthing, who launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out of Kabul as the Taliban swept across Afghanistan.

Despite the intervention, Nowzad’s staff eventually fled Afghanistan to Pakistan rather than on a plane from Kabul, but the charity’s animals were able to leave on a charter flight with Mr Farthing, which the MPs said absorbed “significant” resources during the chaotic period.

The Tory-led committee said Nowzad’s staff were called for evacuation “at the last minute” despite not meeting the Foreign Office’s prioritisation criteria “after a mysterious intervention from elsewhere in Government”.

“Multiple senior officials believed that the Prime Minister played a role in this decision,” the committee said.

“We have yet to be offered a plausible alternative explanation for how it came about.”

Mr Farthing was also allowed to use a privately funded charter flight to rescue his animals “absorbing significant Government resources in the midst of the biggest military airlift in decades”, although by the time of the flight on August 28 civilian evacuations had finished.

“We make no criticism of the organisation, its staff, or those who campaigned on its behalf: they were open about their case and objectives, which were in keeping with their stated priorities,” the MPs said.

“The same cannot be said for the Government.”

During the course of its inquiry, the committee heard from Foreign Office whistleblowers Raphael Marshall and Josie Stewart, who cast doubt on the official version of events surrounding Nowzad’s evacuation.

The MPs said they had lost confidence in Foreign Office mandarin Sir Philip Barton “who should consider his position”.

The committee said: “Those who lead the department should be ashamed that civil servants of great integrity felt compelled to risk their careers to bring to light the appalling mismanagement of the crisis, and the misleading statements to Parliament that followed.”

The MPs said that on August 25 2021, Foreign Office officials saw that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace had tweeted that Nowzad staff had been cleared for authorisation.

This came on the day the Government ceased calling people forward for evacuation and after “many vulnerable individuals” had been removed from official lists “due to lack of capacity” on flights out of Kabul.

“This was a total overriding of the FCDO’s (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office) prioritisation system that had happened in no other case,” the committee said.

“It was irresponsible and risked ‘policy-making by Twitter’.”

Officials sought “rapid confirmation” from the National Security Adviser, Sir Stephen Lovegrove, who agreed to “urgently” seek “clear guidance from No 10” then phoned shortly afterwards to confirm that they should call the group forward.

“Many senior FCDO officials believed that the decision came directly from the Prime Minister,” the report said.

The committee said: “The fact that nobody can state who made the decision that Nowzad staff should be evacuated suggests at best that the political leadership was chaotic and at worst that senior figures are not telling the truth.”

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

More from the Press and Journal Politics team

More from the Press and Journal