Government ‘regrets’ confusion over decision to prioritise animal welfare charity for evacuation from Afghanistan
Written by Hitmix News on 29 July 2022
The government has said it “regrets” the time taken to establish the decision-making process behind a controversial decision to prioritise an animal welfare charity for evacuation from Afghanistan.
The Foreign Office has acknowledged that an “error” in internal communication left some staff believing the prime minister had made the decision.
Boris Johnson later dismissed claims he approved the airlift of animals out of Afghanistan as “total rhubarb”.
The Nowzad charity was set up by former Royal Marine Paul “Pen” Farthing, who launched a high-profile campaign to get his staff and animals out of the Afghan capital Kabul as the Taliban swept across the country last year.
In a damning report, the Conservative-led Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) has said the charity’s workers 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”.
In the end, the workers fled Afghanistan to Pakistan rather than on a plane from Kabul.
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 FAC has been raising questions about who in government made the decision to prioritise the charity as the Taliban closed in on Kabul in August 2021.
The committee said “multiple senior officials” believed the prime minister had played a role in the decision and “we have yet to be offered a plausible alternative explanation”.
Read more: What happened with Pen Farthing and the animal evacuation – and did Boris Johnson intervene?
Addressing the FAC report, in which it was accused of giving “intentionally evasive, and often deliberately misleading” responses to the committee’s investigations, the Foreign Office acknowledged that “more care should have been taken” within the department in how the decision was communicated to staff.
“The government regrets that it took as long as it did to establish what the decision-making process had been in this case, and how the decision was communicated internally to FCDO (Foreign Office) staff,” it said.
“The government acknowledges again that the way the decision to call forward Nowzad staff for evacuation was made was exceptional.
“It agrees that, in this particular case, more care should have been taken within the FCDO in how the decision was communicated to staff.
“It acknowledges again that an error in the way the decision was communicated internally left some FCDO staff believing that the prime minister had made the decision.
“The FCDO agrees with the committee on the importance of accurate record keeping, even in a complex, fast-moving crisis such as this.”
The department also said ministers and officials gave evidence to the inquiry in “good faith” and “at no stage” sought to be “deliberately” misleading.
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0:47 PM denies Kabul animal airlift claim
The Foreign Office also acknowledged the scope of its effort to evacuate those who did not qualify for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme was “poorly communicated publicly and to parliament”, and therefore its confines were “not well understood”.
The FAC said in its report that “under-resourcing of the evacuation effort in a crucial period likely cost hundreds of people their chance to leave the country, and as a result likely cost lives”.
However, the Foreign Office denied that the decision to temporarily withdraw its staff overnight on August 14 and 15, with the exception of the ambassador and a small number of embassy colleagues, represented “mismanagement”.