Despite repeated denials, emails appear to reveal Boris Johnson authorized the evacuation of dogs from Afghanistan.
Afghans packed inside a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III are transported from Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 15. (Capt. Chris Herbert/AP)
Emails released by the British Foreign Office on Wednesday appear to show that Prime Minister Boris Johnson approved a controversial evacuation of dogs and cats from Afghanistan in August, contradicting his dismissal of claims that he intervened to save animals over thousands of Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover as "complete nonsense."
Johnson has denied authorizing the airlift of 200 dogs and cats from Nowzad, an Afghan shelter run by a former British Royal Marine, in late August. Johnson is embroiled in a scandal over allegations that he attended parties during the coronavirus pandemic, in violation of his government's own lockdown rules.
However, allegations that Johnson played a part in approving the flight have persisted. A letter received by a top Johnson adviser in late August confirming authorisation for the animal evacuation was published by a senior British opposition legislator in December.
An unnamed Foreign Office official wrote in an email dated Aug. 25 that the staff of another animal charity — whose identity was redacted — should be considered for evacuation, as the PM has just authorized their [Nowzad] staff and animals to be evacuated, according to the latest correspondence to surface.
On the same day, a second Foreign Office email made a same request, writing that in light of the Prime Minister's Nowzad decision, the Foreign Secretary might consider the [details withheld] vets and their dependents should be included.
The emails were made public as part of a British parliamentary committee's probe of the government's handling of its Afghanistan withdrawal. Raphael Marshall, a former Foreign Office officer turned whistleblower, supplied the letter, describing the August evacuation as "arbitrary and inefficient."
As the US deadline for removal approached in late August, Nowzad's operator, Paul "Pen" Farthing, launched a high-profile social media campaign to evacuate his charity's personnel and animals. Thousands of Afghans gathered everyday near Kabul's international airport in a desperate search for flights out of the country at the time.
As humanitarian difficulties in Afghanistan worsened, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace chastised Farthing's initiative, stating it had "taken up too much time of my top officers. Farthing and his followers, on the other hand, persisted in lobbying Johnson and his close associates.
Farthing eventually gained approval, and on Aug. 29, a private jet bringing him and his animals landed in London. The Afghan personnel of the organization eventually found a way to flee the Taliban.