FORMER commando turned animal rescuer Pen Farthing & his animals have been rescued from Kabul and have landed home "safe" in the UK on Sunday morning.

The ex Commando and his animals left Afghanistan on Saturday without his staff and landed in the UK on board a private flight out of the Taliban-controlled country.

After landing, he took to Twitter to express his thanks for being evacuated out of Afghanistan. In the post he wrote that he has "mixed emotions & true deep feeling of sadness for Afghan today."

Dr Iain McGill, a vet on the plane back with Mr Farthing told the BBC that: "the animals, considering what they've been through, are in very good shape on the whole".

There has however been backlash about prioritising Pen and his animals. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace complained Mr Farthing had "taken up too much time of my senior commanders dealing with this issue when they should be focused on dealing with the humanitarian crisis".

Read our Kabul explosion live blog for the latest updates…

  • Joseph Gamp

    PEN FARTHING CLAIMS TALIBAN FACILITATED ENTRY INTO AIRPORT

    Mr Farthing's Operation Ark campaign became hugely topical on social media, but Mr Wallace had complained it was distracting from the focus on evacuating the most vulnerable out of Afghanistan.

    Mr Wallace previously said Ministry of Defence staff had faced abuse from Mr Farthing's supporters.

    However, Mr Farthing dismissed claims that he was helped by the UK Government to get into Kabul airport with his animals.

    He said: "Nobody in the British Government facilitated my entry into that airport – I did that with the Taliban.

    "I came up to the British checkpoint, that was the first time – and this is well into the airport, the Taliban and British are stood there, there's some barbed wire separating them – that was the first time I spoke to any British people.

    "So whoever is making any accusations or any comments needs to actually have been stood there on the ground to see how I got into that airport.

    "Nobody facilitated my entry… any interpreters or anybody else, there was me and the truck full of dogs and cats, which went into a cargo hold where you cannot put people."

  • Joseph Gamp

    'EMBARRASSED' EX-MARINE APOLOGISES OVER EXPLETIVE-LADEN MESSAGE FOR AIDE

    A former Royal Marine has admitted his emotions "got the better" of him when he left an expletive-laden message for a Government aide while trying to evacuate around 170 dogs and cats from an animal shelter in Afghanistan to the UK.

    Paul "Pen" Farthing arrived at London's Heathrow Airport in a privately funded charter flight at about 7.30am on Sunday, following his Operation Ark campaign to get workers and animals from the Nowzad shelter in Kabul out of the country.

    A recording, obtained by The Times, captured Mr Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, earlier in the week, accusing him of "blocking" efforts to arrange the evacuation flight.

    On Monday, Mr Farthing told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I'm incredibly embarrassed about my language, I do apologise to everybody who's listened to that.

    "I was at the lowest point I could possibly be. I understand how the world works but emotions got the better of me, so for all those who had to listen to that I do apologise for my language.

    "I should not have said it like that, but the sentiment, yes, I was just incredibly upset, angry, frustrated, it was the lowest point. I had no other option, I didn't know what else to do.

    "So that's why you've probably heard some colourful language."

  • Joseph Gamp

    PEN FARTHING SAYS THERE WAS 'SEVERAL EMPTY SEATS' ON HIS EVACUATION FLIGHT

    A former Royal Marine said there were "several empty seats" on his evacuation flight with around 170 dogs and cats from an animal shelter in Afghanistan.

    Paul "Pen" Farthing told ITV's Good Morning Britain he was the only person on the flight.

    He added: "I went around and they reassured me that they had enough capacity for all the people that needed to leave.

    "I was probably like the last person to enter that airport – it was closed. Americans, the British, had obviously stopped taking people in because there had to be a point where they stopped taking people in.

    "So they assured me they had enough capacity for everybody who was inside the airport."

  • Joseph Gamp

    EX-MARINE EVACUATES ANIMALS FROM KABUL BUT SHELTER STAFF LEFT BEHIND

    A former Royal Marine has succeeded in evacuating to the UK around 170 dogs and cats from an animal shelter in Afghanistan, a friend has said.

    But Paul "Pen" Farthing's privately funded charter flight, which arrived at London's Heathrow Airport at about 7.30am on Sunday, was not carrying his 24 staff and dependents from the Nowzad shelter in Kabul.

    Dominic Dyer, an animal welfare campaigner and supporter of Mr Farthing, said the former marine was forced to travel back alone after being told it was not possible to find people to fill the plane's seats.

    Mr Farthing's campaign to get workers and animals from the shelter out of Afghanistan has caused controversy in recent days, after receiving a huge amount of public support.

    Mr Dyer said the shelter staff were "still in their homes" with the charity in contact with them, adding that efforts would be made to try to get them out of Afghanistan.

    "They are one of thousands of Afghans… that have a right to leave the country but actually have no safe passage out at the moment," he said.

  • Joseph Gamp

    PEN FARTHING AND ANIMALS LEFT KABUL YESTERDAY

    PEN Farthing and his animals left Kabul yesterday evening after British troops helped them board a chartered plane.

    The former commando turned animal rescuer had planned to bring his charity staff along with nearly 200 dogs and cats.

    But Pen, 57, was forced to leave behind 24 people and their dependants because of paperwork changes last week.

    He said: "It is so depressing. Some of them came with me to the airport but they weren't allowed to cross the line."

  • Joseph Gamp

    PEN FARTHING SAYS EMOTIONS 'GOT THE BETTER OF HIM' DURING EXPLETIVE LADEN MESSAGE TO GOVERNMENT AIDE

    Pen Farthing said emotions "got the better" of him during an expletive-laden message left for a Government aide.

    A recording, obtained by The Times, captured Mr Farthing berating Peter Quentin, a special adviser to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who he accused of "blocking" efforts to arrange the evacuation flight.

    He told ITV's Good Morning Britain: "I'm incredibly embarrassed about my language, I do apologise to everybody who's listened to that.

    "I was at the lowest point I could possibly be. I understand how the world works but emotions got the better of me, so for all those who had to listen to that I do apologise for my language.

    "I should not have said it like that, but the sentiment, yes, I was just incredibly upset, angry, frustrated, it was the lowest point. I had no other option, I didn't know what else to do. So that's why you've probably heard some colourful language."

  • Joseph Gamp

    NOWZAD CHARITY SAYS ITS THOUGHTS ARE NOW WITH PEN FARTHING’S STAFF IN KABUL

    Confirming the news Mr Farthing and the animals had left Afghanistan, the Nowzad charity said: “The last few days have been extremely difficult and hazardous for Pen and the Nowzad team and we very much appreciate your patience and messages of support as we have strived to get them to safety.

    “We know that Pen will update you as soon as he is able.”

    But it said their “thoughts for now are with our staff and the many people and animals who have also been left behind.

    “We will do our utmost to help them,” the statement added.

  • Joseph Gamp

    BIDEN TO RECEIVE BODIES OF 13 US MILITARY MEMBERS KILLED IN A KABUL AIRPORT SUICIDE BOMB AT DOVER AIR FORCE BASE

    The President and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, will meet the families of service members killed in the terror attack today, the White House confirmed.

    They will then witness the transfer of the military members’ remains from an aircraft flown to the base in Delaware.

    The 11 Marines have been identified as Rylee McCollum, Nicole Gee, Dylan Merola, Kareem Nikoui, Jared Schmitz, Humberto Sanchez, Hunter Lopez, Taylor Hoover, Daegan Page, Johanny Rosario Pichardo, and 20-year-old David Lee Espinoza.

    A US Navy medic has been identified as Max Soviak. Finally, a US Army soldier named Ryan Knauss was also killed.

    Marine Nicole Gee was previously captured caring for the baby of an Afghan evacuee in a touching photo before being killed in the blast on Thursday.

  • Joseph Gamp

    PEN FARTHING’S ANIMALS ‘COULD BE PUT DOWN’

    The ex-Royal Marine is understood to be immediately boarding a connecting flight to Norway to visit his wife Kaisa Markhus.

    Nearly 200 animals he was travelling with from Kabul will reportedly now have to quarantine under UK law.

    But there is a chance the dogs and cats could be put down if they are found to have any diseases.

  • Joseph Gamp

    DEFENCE HELP TO FREE PEN

    Pen packed 125kg of dry pet food, 72 tins, 270 litres of water, 12 industrial size rolls of paper towel and 20 bottles of disinfectant for mucking out the crates during the private rescue flight.

    The drama has put huge pressure on British officials who were desperately trying to evacuate as many as possible before flights stopped today.

    As a British passport holder, Pen has always been at the front of the queue for evacuation.

    However, he had refused to leave without his animals or staff.

    Defence Minister Ben Wallace has repeatedly told Brits he’ll “prioritise people over pets”.

  • Joseph Gamp

    DAD OF MARINE RYLEE MCCOLLUM KILLED IN KABUL REVEALS HEARTBREAKING LAST MESSAGE HE SENT SON BEFORE SUICIDE BLAST

    Rylee McCollum, 20, had only been in Afghanistan a matter of weeks and was due home in October to be reunited with his pregnant wife Jiennah Crayton, known as Gigi.

    His devastated dad, Jim, has hailed his son “selfless” in a touching tribute and he revealed the last message he sent to his son read: “Hey man… You good?” – which Rylee never responded to as he was caught up in the deadly blast.

    “The world changed for me a little bit Friday morning,” Jim wrote on Facebook.

    “I’m sure I’ll find that whimsical side of me again, but for now, I am somewhat empty. It could be that I’m sad.

    “It could be that I’m empty, or it could be that I am just tried.

    “I’ve managed about 6 hours of sleep since I rest my head on a pillow Thursday night, hoping to wake up seeing that my son had read my last message to him…’Hey man…You good?’

    “We know now, that he was not.”

    The grief-stricken dad has said he has been overwhelmed by support given since his son’s tragic death.

  • Joseph Gamp

    BORIS JOHNSON TELLS SOLDIERS FAMILIES: ‘YOUR SUFFERING WAS NOT IN VAIN’

    Addressing the families and loved ones of the British troops who “gave their all”, Mr Johnson said: “Your suffering and your hardship were not in vain.”

    He added: “It was no accident that there’s been no terrorist attack launched against Britain or any other western country from Afghanistan in the last 20 years.

    “It was thanks to the bravery of our Armed Forces who fought to knock out (Osama) Bin Laden’s networks.

    “And, thanks to the devotion of British troops and aid workers and diplomats and others, we’ve helped educate 3.6 million girls.

    “Whatever the future may hold for Afghanistan, they will have that gift for the rest of their lives, a gift they will pass on to their daughters as well as their sons.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    UK AMBASSADOR TO AFGHANISTAN ARRIVES IN UK ONE ON OF LAST EVACUATION FLIGHTS

    Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow arrived on one of the last flights carrying UK military and civilian personnel on their final homeward leg back from Afghanistan.

    A Voyager aircraft touched down at RAF Brize Norton airfield in Oxfordshire on Sunday morning.

    Roughly 250 personnel were on board, including members of 16 Air Assault Brigade who were stationed at Kabul airport.

    The plane flew in from Al Minhad airfield in the United Arab Emirates near Dubai where the UK’s evacuation flights from Afghanistan first landed.

    Further flights carrying personnel are expected later on Sunday.

  • Joseph Gamp

    AIRLIFT OF BRITONS AND REFUGEES FROM AFGHANISTAN WAS UNPRECEDENTED MISSION – PM

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK departure from Afghanistan was “the culmination of a mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes”.

    The final UK troops and diplomatic staff were airlifted from Kabul on Saturday, drawing to a close Britain’s 20-year engagement in Afghanistan and a two-week operation to rescue UK nationals and Afghan allies.

    Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow, who had been processing those fleeing the country at the airport until the last moment, was among those who landed at RAF Brize Norton base in Oxfordshire on Sunday morning.

    And it brought to a close Operation Pitting, believed to be the largest evacuation mission since the Second World War.

    In a video uploaded to Twitter on Sunday morning, Mr Johnson praised the more than 1,000 military personnel, diplomats and officials who took part in the operation in Afghanistan.

  • Joseph Gamp

    DOWNTON ABBEY’S PETER EGAN LEAPS TO DEFENCE OF PEN FARTHING

    Downton Abbey and Afterlife star Peter Egan tweeted: “I’m going to post further comment later but in the meantime here is the man who is being vilified this morning for being what he is a hero.

    “CNN Heroes Tribute: Pen Farthing.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    FORMER BRITISH ARMY HEAD SAYS ‘WE SHOULD HAVE DONE BETTER’

    A former head of the British Army has said it was “unfathomable why it would appear that the Government was asleep on watch” in relation to the protection of Afghans who helped soldiers and officials.

    Speaking on Times Radio, General Lord Richard Dannatt said: “On the particular issue of those who we knew were in danger, people who had worked for us, interpreters, former locally-engaged civilians, this issue has been in the media.

    “This issue has been on politicians’ desks for two to three years and, certainly, it’s been there during the course of this year.

    “I mean, you might remember, back in July, 45 senior officers wrote to the Government, an open letter to the Government, saying there are people we are concerned about and if we don’t do the right thing, their blood will be on our hands. It is unfathomable why it would appear that the Government was asleep on watch.

    “I think the issue of Afghanistan sat on the backburner. Maybe it started to come forward. But then, suddenly, when the Taliban took over the country in the precipitate fashion in which they did, it fell off the cooker straight onto the kitchen floor and we’ve … had this chaotic extraction.

    “We should have done better, we could have done better. It absolutely behoves us to find out why the Government didn’t spark up faster.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    BORIS JOHNSON TELLS SOLDIERS FAMILIES: ‘YOUR SUFFERING WAS NOT IN VAIN’

    Addressing the families and loved ones of the British troops who “gave their all”, Mr Johnson said: “Your suffering and your hardship were not in vain.”

    He added: “It was no accident that there’s been no terrorist attack launched against Britain or any other western country from Afghanistan in the last 20 years.

    “It was thanks to the bravery of our Armed Forces who fought to knock out (Osama) Bin Laden’s networks.

    “And, thanks to the devotion of British troops and aid workers and diplomats and others, we’ve helped educate 3.6 million girls.

    “Whatever the future may hold for Afghanistan, they will have that gift for the rest of their lives, a gift they will pass on to their daughters as well as their sons.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    PEN FARTHING ARRIVES SAFELY AT LONDON HEATHROW AFTER KABUL EVACUATION

    PEN Farthing has landed safely in London Heathrow with his 173 dogs and cats after his heartbreak at leaving devoted staff behind.

    The ex-Royal Marine is understood to be immediately boarding a connecting flight to Norway to visit his wife Kaisa Markhus.

    Nearly 200 animals he was travelling with from Kabul will reportedly now have to quarantine under UK law.

    His charted jet stopped at Muscat after leaving war-torn Afghanistan before arriving in London today.

    Pen’s pet charity Nowzad confirmed last night that the former Royal Marine was “safely” out of Kabul, along with the rescued animals.

  • Joseph Gamp

    WHAT HAS HAPPENED WITH PEN FARTHING’S EVACUATION?

    Since the collapse of the Afghan government, Mr Farthing and his supporters have campaigned to have his staff, their families and 140 dogs and 60 cats evacuated from the country in a plan he named Operation Ark.

    But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has complained some of Mr Farthing’s supporters had “taken up too much time of my senior commanders dealing with this issue when they should be focused on dealing with the humanitarian crisis”.

    Dominic Dyer said on Twitter his friend Mr Farthing was now a “national hero, of huge public standing”.

    “He is one of the most courageous, dedicated people I’ve ever met and it’s been an absolute privilege to work alongside others campaigning and fighting for him every step of the way.”

  • Joseph Gamp

    WESTERN DEPORTATION TO AFGHANISTAN BEFORE TALIBAN TAKEOVER ‘SHAMEFUL’

    Western nations behaved “shamefully” by deporting people to Afghanistan before leaving the nation to the Taliban, an advocate for Afghan refugees has said.

    Abdul Ghafoor, the director of the Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organisation (Amaso), said some nations were trying to deport Afghans back to the nation even until the day Kabul fell.

    “I have been advocating against the deportation to Afghanistan for the past six years… my fear was what we are witnessing today,” the 35-year-old told the PA news agency.

    “It’s shameful to see that some of the countries were insisting (on deportations) until the last day – until Kabul had collapsed.”

    Mr Ghafoor only named Belgium and Austria among countries that were insisting on deportations until the Taliban had taken Kabul, but added the UK has been “very tough” on Afghan refugees.

  • Joseph Gamp

    US CARRIED OUT AIR STRIKE IN KABUL, OFFICIALS SAY

    The United States carried out a military strike on Sunday in Kabul, two US officials have said.

    Reuters reports the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the strike targeted suspected ISIS-K militants.

    They said they were citing initial information and cautioned it could change.

  • Joseph Gamp

    KABUL EXPLOSION – CHILD KILLED AFTER ‘ROCKET HITS HOUSE’ NEAR AIRPORT

    A CHILD has been killed after Kabul was rocked by an explosion just hours after the UK’s final flight left Afghanistan.

    The blast erupted when a rocket hit a residential neighbourhood near the airport where desperate people are trying to flee the Taliban.

    An Afghan police chief said a child was killed in the horror but no other details are immediately available. It is also not yet clear if there are any other casualties.

    No group has claimed responsibility for the blast today. The US carried out a military strike today targeting suspected ISIS-K militants, Reuters reports.

    The blast comes after President Joe Biden warned another attack on Kabul airport was likely to come in the next 24 hours.

  • Milica Cosic

    US DEPARTMENT OF STATE ISSUES TRAVEL ASSURANCES

    The US and nearly 100 other nations have issued a joint statement saying they have received a collective assurance from the Taliban that foreign nationals and Afghans will be allowed to leave the country.

    The text in full reads: "We are all committed to ensuring that our citizens, nationals and residents, employees, Afghans who have worked with us and those who are at risk can continue to travel freely to destinations outside Afghanistan.

    "We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorisation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.

    "We will continue issuing travel documentation to designated Afghans, and we have the clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that they can travel to our respective countries. We note the public statements of the Taliban confirming this understanding."

  • Milica Cosic

    MUM OF BABY INJURED IN KABUL BOMBING BEGS PM TO HELP REUNITE HER WITH HER TWO CHILDREN

    This is a Sun exclusive.

    Basbibi Raza, 19, wept as she revealed that Muhammad Raza — two next month — needs a life-saving operation in the next 48 hours.

    The tot was hit by shrapnel in the blast which killed his dad Miraj and grandad Sultan, 48.

    He has already had surgery in Afghanistan where he remains with his five-month-old sister, Kalsoom.

    Basbibi was split from her family moments before Thursday’s attack which killed at least 170, including 13 US troops and three Brits.

    They got permission to board an RAF flight out after Sultan, a cabbie in England since 2002, was granted UK citizenship ten days earlier.

    Basbibi took the flight alone, only learning of her family’s tragedy when she landed at Birmingham Airport on Friday.

    Deemed mentally unfit to self-isolate, she was taken to London where family members are looking after her.

    Read more here.

    Little Muhammad needs a second operation after sustaining injuries in the Kabul Airport suicide bombing Credit: © Jerome Starkey 2021
  • Milica Cosic

    'THE WAY AFGHAN OPERATION HAS FINISHED IS A COLOSSAL, MASSIVE, GENERATIONAL SCREW-UP'

    This is a comment piece by Douglas Murray.

    "The truth is that if blame is going to be found it should be in a great many places. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair was back in the news this week, blasting the Americans for a “tragic, dangerous, unnecessary” withdrawal. But it was Mr Blair who took us into Afghanistan in the first place.

    "The first aim — which was to whack al-Qaeda — was achiev­ed early. It was Blair who oversaw the Afghan mission-creep. And it is thanks to Blair that our troops got stuck in Afghanistan for two decades.

    "If they could not make an Afghan army or government in 20 years how long should they have been there?

    "Would half a century be a good round number?"

    Read more here.

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