Senior Foreign Ministry official apologizes for misleading MPs on evacuation of Afghan animals

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Boris Johnson has been accused of lying about whether he authorized the airlift of cats and dogs from Afghanistan, but has called the claims “total rhubarb”.

A senior Foreign Ministry official has apologized for misleading parliamentarians about the controversial airlift of cats and dogs from Afghanistan.

Sir Philip Barton admitted he had given “inadvertently inaccurate answers” when he told the Foreign Affairs Committee that Nigel Casey, the prime minister’s special representative to Afghanistan, had not received any correspondence suggesting that Boris Johnson had authorized the evacuation of animals. from the Nowzad charity.

But leaked emails show that Casey asked an official to “seek clear guidance for us from number 10 as soon as possible on what they would like us to do” in the case.

Johnson has been accused of lying about whether he intervened to help ex-Marine Pen Farthing get the animals out of Kabul when the Taliban came to power last August.

The prime minister described claims by a Foreign Office whistleblower as “total rhubarb” on Thursday, despite explosive emails showing staff saying they had “authorized” the move.

The dispute casts new doubt on the prime minister’s integrity as he awaits the results of Sue Gray’s report on the Downing Street parties.

Pen Farthing, founder of the animal charity Nowzad
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PENNSYLVANIA)

Ex-Marine Pen Farthing was able to get animals from his charity Nowzad out of Afghanistan
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PENNSYLVANIA)

Sir Philip, the permanent undersecretary at the Foreign Office, initially told the committee that Casey had not received any correspondence about the prime minister’s involvement.

But the leaked emails, published by the BBC, show that Casey asked an official to “seek clear guidance for us from Number 10 as soon as possible on what they would like us to do” in the case.

Sir Philip has now written to committee chair Tom Tugendhat to apologize for giving “inadvertently inaccurate answers”.

But he said that “on the day the email was sent, Nigel was almost completely focused, in his role as Gold in our crisis response, on the terrorist threat to the evacuation.”

Labor’s Chris Bryant, who sits on the committee, said: “The disaster of our withdrawal from Afghanistan requires the highest level of scrutiny.

“Parliament can only do this if there is government transparency.

“Since we published internal Foreign Office emails earlier this week, more emails have come to light making it difficult to be confident that we are receiving full responses from the department.”

The chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year is being scrutinized by the Foreign Affairs Committee amid continuing questions about the government’s handling of the crisis.

US and British troops assisted in mass evacuation from Kabul
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MOD/AFP via Getty Images)

Sir Philip came under fire when he admitted he had been on holiday for nearly two weeks after Kabul fell to the Taliban.

Then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab also did not immediately return from a family vacation in Crete.

The evacuation of the animals cared for by the Nowzad charity generated a lot of controversy as thousands of people trying to flee the Taliban were left behind.

Downing Street has repeatedly denied intervening to help Farthing, who was able to evacuate 173 cats and dogs from the country using a plane funded by donations raised in a high-profile campaign.

But an email shared with MPs by whistleblower Raphael Marshall showed a Foreign Office official saying the prime minister had “authorized” the rescue of the animals.

And the BBC reported another email from the same day that said then-Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was “looking for an address from number 10 on whether” to call Nowzad’s staff.

Another email from Casey showed him asking a security officer to “get clear guidance for us from number 10 as soon as possible on what they would like us to do.”

Boris Johnson called claims he authorized the evacuation of animals from Kabul ‘total rhubarb’
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POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The emails to the Commons inquiry were sent by Marshall, who was working for the Foreign Office at the time and alleges that the animals were evacuated following an order from Johnson.

House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg tried to downplay the dispute as “concern for some animals”.

Downing Street tried to argue that the officials in the first published correspondence might have been wrong.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is not uncommon in Whitehall for a decision to be interpreted or represented as coming directly from the Prime Minister, even when that is not the case, and we understand that is what happened in this case.

“We appreciate that it was a hectic time for the officials dealing with this situation.”

Farthing submitted a five-page statement defending his actions to the committee, saying the animals were transported in the plane’s hold, which is unsafe for humans.

He said the charity had offered British evacuees seats on the plane, but the government rejected their offer.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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