Nowzad evacuation 'cost lives' says Dan Jarvis, as Boris Johnson under pressure on Afghanistan

The Prime Minister’s alleged decision to evacuate animals and charity staff from Afghanistan “cost lives”, Yorkshire politician Dan Jarvis has said, as he called on Boris Johnson to “go”.

Mr Johnson has been accused of lying about the hand he played in the evacuation of welfare charity Nowzad from Kabul last August, after emails emerged yesterday suggesting he “authorised” UK assistance.

The Prime Minister has previously denied that he intervened to bring Nowzad staff and animals to Britain during the Allied withdrawal in August, which was taking place amid a Taliban takeover of Kabul.

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But after a whistleblower leaked email exchanges to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, political rivals have accused the Conservative Party leader of failing to tell the truth.

Dan Jarvis speaking in a debate on Afghanistan in the House of Commons in 2021 (Parliament)

The notes published by the committee yesterday afternoon included the line that “the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated” when talking about Nowzad.

A Downing Street spokesman said yesterday: “At no point did the Prime Minister instruct staff to take any particular course of action on Nowzad.”

Mr Jarvis, a Labour MP and former British Army officer, said things are getting “worse by the day for the Prime Minister”.

Mr Jarvis, who served in Helmand, told The Yorkshire Post: “Afghans who risked their lives because we asked them to serve didn’t make it out. Now we learn the truth – the Prime Minister diverted resources to evacuate animals at their expense. What must those we abandoned feel when they learn dogs were prioritised over their families?”

The MP for Barnsley Central and Mayor of South Yorkshire added: “It gets worse by the day for the Prime Minister. More lies, this one cost lives. He’s got to go.”

Paul “Pen” Farthing, who ran the Nowzad shelter, launched a campaign to get his staff and animals out of Afghanistan after the fall of Kabul, using a plane funded through donations.

The UK Government sponsored clearance for the charter flight, leading to allegations that animals had been prioritised over people in the rescue effort.

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Labour said the latest development is fresh evidence that Mr Johnson had failed to come clean over how Nowzad exited Afghanistan during the summer withdrawal.

Asked by reporters on December 7 if he had intervened in the evacuation, Mr Johnson described the suggestion as “complete nonsense”.

The email evidence from Lord Goldsmith’s office was submitted to the committee by Raphael Marshall, who worked for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office at the time and claimed the animals were evacuated following a direct instruction from the Prime Minister.

Mr Marshall, offering his own evidence in writing to MPs, 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”.

Pen’ Farthing, who ran the Nowzad shelter, used his submission to the committee to question Mr Marshall’s testimony, calling it “unverified”. Mr Farthing said “no HMG capacity was used to transport any animals” and Nowzad “never ever asked anyone to prioritise our staff”.

Nowzad, in a follow-on statement, said: “As a charity, we had no oversight of any communication between any Government departments relating to who authorised the call forward of the Nowzad staff.”

It said only Mr Farthing, with his animals “in the cargo hold”, was able to leave Kabul in a chartered flight, with 67 Afghan staff and vets evacuated “by road to start new lives” in Britain.

A Downing Street spokesman said yesterday: “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.”