Afghanistan: why is the repatriation of 200 animals controversial in the United Kingdom?

The affair made the fat of the British tabloids. As thousands of Afghans have tried to flee the country since the Taliban came to power, an English veteran has mobilized a private plane to repatriate 200 dogs and cats from Kabul. If the machine landed Sunday evening in the United Kingdom, the pill is difficult to swallow for part of the public opinion. And for good reason: the former soldier, Paul Farthing, left his 24 Afghan employees behind. The one who fought in Afghanistan during the 2000s and has since settled there, had created an animal sanctuary administered by the charity ‘Nowzad Dogs’ in reference to the Afghan town of Nawzad where his commando unit separated in 2006 two dogs fighting.

“We are relieved to confirm that [Farthing] and the animals left Afghanistan this afternoon and are now safe. United that divided the country When the Taliban seized Kabul two weeks ago, Paul Farthing was offered safe passage out of the country with members of his family, but the veteran who refused to leave without his animals. With interviews in the media and appearances on social networks, they launch the operation “Ark” in reference to Noah’s ark. Some celebrities take the bait and offer their support like by British comedian Ricky Gervais.

But in the face of the seriousness of the Afghan crisis, the operation to rescue the veteran – which some regard as a whim – arouses outrage in part of the political sphere. “How about if I sent an ambulance to save my dog ​​rather than to save your mother?” said Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat, who served in the British Army in Afghanistan. “We have just used a lot of troops to bring 200 dogs. Meanwhile, the family of my interpreter is at risk of being killed,” he continued on LBC radio on Saturday. For his part, Farthing and his supporters claimed that Operation Ark did not take plane seats from people and did not drain resources from the official evacuation operation.

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“My interpreter’s family is at risk of being killed”

“Not only did Paul Farthing abandon his Afghan staff, but they put their dogs on their plane just as the Americans were loading their 13 victims” of the attack on Thursday, indignant a British defense source quoted by the newspaper The Times. Moreover, this case is consistent with the end of the British evacuation operation in Afghanistan which ended on Saturday August 28. According to the Ministry of Defense, more than 14,500 people have been evacuated since August 13, including 8,000 Afghans eligible for the program for Afghan personnel employed locally by the United Kingdom. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, for his part, assured that he would move “heaven and earth” to continue to bring people out of Afghanistan after the date of August 31 scheduled for the withdrawal of American soldiers, at the end twenty years of war.

But the role of government is also contested. For Operation Ark to work, logistical support from the State was essential. At the beginning opposed to the approach of Paul Farthing, the Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace ended up bending in the face of the obstinacy of the veteran and the pressure of part of the public opinion. “If he arrives with his animals, we will look for a niche for his plane”, tweeted Wednesday Ben Wallace about Paul Farthing, This gear change is strongly commented on in the local media which question the influence of the ex- military over the British authorities. For example, the Sunday Times reports that the veteran sent very insulting messages to an adviser to the minister, whom he threatened to “destroy” if ever he did not get permission to take off from Kabul.

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Regarding the Afghan employees who remained in the country, Paul Farthing’s association promised to “do everything possible to help them”. While visas were granted to all staff and their families – 68 people – they themselves could not make it to the airport to be evacuated. “It’s depressing to have to leave them there”, the former British soldier simply said, adding that it was the staff who had pushed him to evacuate the animals. Many Taliban-controlled checkpoints are installed on the way to the airport, making it very difficult to access. On Monday, a plane carrying medical aid from the World Health Organization (WHO) landed in Afghanistan on Monday, a first since the Taliban took power.



Gwénaëlle Avice-Huet is Senior Vice President in charge of Schneider Electric's strategyGwénaëlle Avice-Huet is Senior Vice President in charge of Schneider Electric’s strategy


Economist and essayist, Nicolas Bouzou is the founder and director of the Asterès consulting firm.Nicolas bouzou


Frédéric Filloux is a columnist for L'Express and editor of the Monday Note.Frédéric Filloux


Each week, the Bookstore of the eco offers a title in the news.Jean-Marc Daniel

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