Boris Johnson “authorised” a charity’s staff and animals “to be evacuated” from Kabul at the height of Britain’s operation to rescue people from Afghanistan, according to emails leaked by a Foreign Office whistleblower.
The UK prime minister has denied as “complete nonsense” that he issued an instruction last August to airlift animals from the charity Nowzad, run by Pen Farthing, a former British serviceman.
An email sent by an official in the private office of Lord Zac Goldsmith, a minister in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, stated: the “PM has just authorised” Nowzad “staff and animals to be evacuated”.
It was released by the House of Commons foreign affairs select committee as part of the evidence provided by Raphael Marshall, who worked for the FCDO as a desk officer in London, He accused Johnson in December of intervening during the evacuation to airlift the animals out of Kabul.
The email read: “[animal charity — name redacted] are a [details redacted] animal charity operating in Kabul and seeking to evacuation their [details redacted] members of staff (no animals).
“Equivalent charity Nowzad, run by an ex-Royal Marine, has received a lot of publicity and the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated, [animal charity — name redacted] are hoping to be treated in the same capacity (granted LOTR).”
Downing Street has previously said the allegation that the prime minister had intervened in relation to Nowzad’s animals was “entirely untrue”. When asked by a reporter about it in December, Johnson said: “That’s complete nonsense.”
In his written evidence, Marshall claimed: “There was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating UK nationals and Afghan evacuees, including Afghans who had served with British soldiers.”
Critics have accused the government of leaving thousands of eligible Afghans who assisted the West in the country, many of whom have since been murdered by the Taliban after it took power last August.
Marshall said the FCDO received between 75,000 and 150,000 evacuation applications by Afghans who were in danger because of their connections to the UK, but estimated that fewer than “5 per cent” of these people obtained any assistance.
John Healey, the shadow defence secretary, said: “Once again, the prime minister has been caught out lying about what he has been doing and deciding. He should never have given priority to flying animals out of Afghanistan while Afghans who worked for our armed forces were left behind.”
The prime minister’s official spokesman said on Wednesday: “It remains the case that the PM didn’t instruct officials to take any particular course of action.”
Ben Wallace, defence secretary, denied on Tuesday that Johnson had issued any instruction to oversee the safe passage of the animals out of Kabul.
Appearing before MPs on the Commons foreign affairs select committee, Wallace insisted: “No one lobbied me . . . The prime minister didn’t ring up. At no stage, at any stage, did the prime minister ask me to make a way for those pets. Not at all. Never.”
In December, a letter was leaked that showed Johnson’s parliamentary private secretary, Trudy Harrison, telling Farthing that his staff and animals could be evacuated via Kabul airport.
In the letter sent on August 25, Harrison said the charity’s animals would leave Afghanistan on a “chartered flight” that the Ministry of Defence was supervising.
Downing Street responded to the letter by saying: “This was an operational decision. Neither the PM nor Mrs Johnson were involved. This letter was nothing to do with Ms Harrison’s role as the PM’s PPS, she was acting in her capacity as a constituency MP.”