PM lied about intervention in Afghan evacuation, emails suggest

Elliot Chappell
© Nazar Gonchar/

Boris Johnson lied when he claimed that he had not intervened personally in the evacuation process in Afghanistan to prioritise the removal of animals over people, emails from the Foreign Office have suggested.

The Prime Minister was accused last year of giving an order to save animals from Nowzad, a charity run by ex-marine Pen Farthing. Downing Street and the Prime Minister repeatedly rejected the allegations that Johnson himself intervened.

An email from an unnamed Foreign Office official on August 25th, however, stated: “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.”

A second email, sent between officials the same day, said: “In light of the PM’s decision earlier today to evacuate the staff of the Nowzad animal charity, the [animal charity – name redacted] is asking for agreement to the entry of [details redacted] staff, all Afghan nationals.”

Both emails were released by the foreign affairs select committee today. The committee is conducting an inquiry into the withdrawal from Afghanistan last summer. The emails were supplied by whistleblower Raphael Marshall.

Johnson said in December that the claims he had intervened were “complete nonsense”. Downing Street said at the time: “At no point did the Prime Minister intervene. We have always prioritised people over animals.”

“The PM’s corrosive and chronic dishonesty is debasing his office,” David Lammy tweeted, reacting to the news. “The man is a pathological liar. Untrustworthy, unlikeable and absolutely unsuitable for the office of Prime Minister.”

Dominic Raab, the Justice Secretary, denied the claims in December last year. Asked whether the animals cared for by Farthing’s charity had been prioritised in the evacuation, the minister told LBC Radio: “No, that’s just simply not right.”

67 members of staff working for the animal charity made it out of Kabul last September, during the largest UK-aided evacuation since British troops left the Afghan capital, as the Taliban took control of the city.

Farthing arrived in the UK with 170 cats and dogs. Marshall, who worked for the Foreign Office at the time of the evacuation, told the committee today that animals had been prioritised over people in the rescue effort.

“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,” Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey said.

“Boris Johnson is unable to make the serious decisions that are needed, at home and for our allies abroad.”

Animal rights activist Dominic Dyer, an ally of Farthing, told the BBC he had contacted Johnson’s wife Carrie to ask the Prime Minister to intervene with Ben Wallace to ensure the ex-marine and his animals were evacuated.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Tuesday that Johnson did not ask him to clear the way out of Afghanistan for the animals: “At no stage, at any stage, did the Prime Minister ask me to make a way for those pets. Not at all. Never.”

Farthing denied any UK government involvement in the evacuation in a written submission to the committee. He argued the work done by his team should not be “used as a deflection for failings across the board in Afghanistan”.

Labour MP Christ Bryant said in parliament today: “The Prime Minister said on the 26th August that he had ‘had no influence on that particular case, nor would that be right’.” Adding that the emails published today contradicted this, Bryant asked: “Mr Speaker, how can I get to the bottom of who’s telling the truth?”

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