Boris Johnson intervened to ensure that dogs from a rescue shelter were evacuated from Afghanistan in a “direct trade-off” with human lives, a former UK Foreign Office worker claimed.
The claims were made by Raphael Marshall, a former desk officer in the Foreign Office whose damning testimony to members of parliament about the UK’s evacuation of Kabul in August was published this week.
Around 100 dogs and 70 cats were brought to the UK in August on a charter flight from Kabul.
They were previously in a shelter run by Nowzad, a charity founded by former Royal Marine Pen Farthing.
Marshall said that the prime minister explicitly requested that the Foreign Office use “considerable capacity” to facilitate the transport of the animals to the UK.
The move came despite the “extremely limited capacity” at the airport, where the UK was forced to reject requests from hundreds of vulnerable Afghans, Marshall said.
Many were left behind despite the risk they would be killed by the Taliban, he said, including hundreds who worked with the British government.
“There was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghans evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers,” Marshall said in evidence to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee.
“This is because soldiers tasked with escorting the dogs through the crowd and into the airport would by definition have otherwise been deployed to support the evacuation of British nationals or Afghans prioritized for evacuation, notably by helping families out of the dangerous crowd into the airport.”
Marshall estimated that between 75,000 and 150,000 people applied to the UK Foreign Office for evacuation from Kabul. He said he believed around 5% were successfully evacuated.
Nowzad’s staff were later also evacuated from Kabul, which Marshall said was a breach of UK policy. He said that the workers were not at significant risk, but said other others whose applications were ultimately rejected were at risk of murder.
Farthing denied that he received help from the British government to support the organization of the charter plane which was paid for by supporters of the charity.
“Let’s make this bloody crystal clear & on the record. NOT 1 single British soldier was used to get me or the Nowzad dogs and cats into Kabul airport,” he wrote on Twitter.
“This whistleblower lied to Parliament Nowzad supporters paid for cargo flight, not the useless British government.”
A Downing Street spokesperson on Tuesday called Marshall’s claims were “entirely untrue.”
“The PM did not instruct officials to take any particular course of action on that issue.”
The spokesperson denied that Johnson had instructed Foreign Office ministers at all and said: “We’ve been clear on this throughout. The PM’s focus was on saving and evacuating as many people as possible.
“That was the instruction he gave to the whole of government. And that’s why we evacuated 15,000 individuals and over 2,000 subsequently.”