Opposition parties have accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of lying about the role he played in bringing over 100 animals from Afghanistan to the UK during the Kabul airlift, after a leaked email shows he “authorised” the evacuation.
The 94 dogs and 69 cats were in the care of an animal welfare charity called Nowzad, which belonged to Paul Farthing, an ex-Marine who goes by the name Pen Farthing.
As Afghanistan fell to the Taliban, Farthing successfully brought the animals to the UK on a privately-chartered plane on Aug. 29, after waging a high-profile media battle with the British Ministry of Defence to get his flight cleared.
The UK government sponsored clearance for the charter flight, leading to allegations that animals had been prioritised over people in the rescue effort.
The prime minister has previously denied that he intervened to bring Nowzad staff and animals to Britain.
Asked by reporters on Dec. 7 if he had intervened in the evacuation, Johnson described the suggestion as “complete nonsense.”
But email exchanges leaked by a whistleblower to the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons have raised further questions as to what role he really played in the evacuation.
The evidence published on Jan. 26 shows an official in the private office of government minister Lord Goldsmith told colleagues working on the evacuation on Aug. 25 that “the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated,” in reference to “charity Nowzad, run by an ex-Royal Marine.”
The main opposition Labour Party said this is fresh evidence that Johnson had been “caught out lying.”
Shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “He should never have given priority to flying animals out of Afghanistan while Afghans who worked for our armed forces were left behind.”
Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran raised concerns about the “discrepancy between what the prime minister says to journalists versus what is revealed” in Parliament.
The email evidence from Lord Goldsmith’s office was submitted to the committee by Raphael Marshall, a former employee at the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) who claimed the animals were evacuated following a direct instruction from the prime minister.
In his written testimony to the committee, Marshall said multiple colleagues wrote on the Teams message system that the prime minister had given an instruction to “call-forward Nowzad’s staff for evacuation.”
Farthing disputed the allegation, stressing that no government capacity was used to transport the animals.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister had no role in authorising individual evacuations from Afghanistan during Op Pitting, including Nowzad staff and animals. At no point did the prime minister instruct staff to take any particular course of action on Nowzad.”
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said that “at no point” was he or Admiral Sir Ben Key, the Chief of Joint Operations of Operation Pitting, “directed by the prime minister to evacuate Pen Farthing, his workforce, or his pets.”
Lily Zhou and PA Media contributed to this report.