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Ex-marine: I’m not leaving Kabul without my animal rescue staff

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A Royal Marine veteran, who founded an animal sanctuary in Kabul, has made an impassioned plea to the UK government to help his staff leave Afghanistan.

Paul “Pen” Farthing said he would not leave them behind to “suffer a fate” that the West has put upon them.

His charity, Nowzad, wants ministers to “do the right thing” by flying 71 people to the UK from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized the capital city.

The BBC has contacted the Foreign Office for a comment.

Mr Farthing set up the charity 15 years ago, helping to increase awareness of animal welfare in the country and to rescue stray dogs and abused donkeys.

His clinic trained Afghanistan’s first fully-qualified female vets but now he fears for their futures.

“I don’t think there are words to describe what they are feeling right now,” he told the BBC News, from Kabul.

“What do you say to someone who is probably going to be told they will have to marry a Taliban fighter and end up living at home, never being allowed to leave and just raising children with someone they absolutely detest?”

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Mr Farthing, who served with the Royal Marines as a commando in the Afghan province of Helmand in the mid-2000s, said the West “should hang our heads in shame for what we have just done to this country”.

“We gave people hope, aspirations, dreams for the future. In a matter of weeks, we have just ripped them from them.”

He said he was not hopeful the Taliban regime had changed for the better.

For now, the eyes of the world were watching the Taliban, he said.

But in two months’ time, the international community would be gone, the US would have left the airport and no-one would be watching – and if they did go back to their ways, no-one was coming to interfere in Afghanistan again, he added.

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The British and US servicemen and women who died in Afghanistan – including two of his marines – had died “in vain”, he said.

“We have achieved nothing now – we have just thrown everything away.”

image captionMr Farthing has rented a cargo plane to get the rescue animals out of the city

In an emotional appeal, he pleaded for the government to make an exception for his Afghan staff, who will not fall under the two existing schemes for interpreters and British government workers.

A campaign is under way on social media but he said so far he has had no communication from the British government.

Vice Adm Sir Ben Key, who is running the UK’s evacuation programme in Afghanistan, said the UK hoped to help 6,000 to 7,000 British nationals and eligible Afghan staff to leave – but that figure was dependant on the security situation.

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Afghans considered eligible to resettle in the UK include workers for the British government, interpreters, cultural advisers and embassy staff. Others eligible are those deemed to be at high and imminent risk.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab earlier said the UK was looking at a “bespoke arrangement” for Afghan refugees, with full details to be set out in due course.

A new resettlement scheme will be aimed at helping those most in need – including women and girls – to come to the UK, No 10 has said.

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