THE PRIME Minister authorised the evacuation of dozens of cats and dogs from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, newly released emails suggest.

Boris Johnson and his officials have repeatedly said he did not have any hand in the decision to rescue Pen Farthing, the former Royal Marine, and his Nowzad animal charity staff and pets from the country last year as it was being taken over by the Taliban. 

However emails provided to the Foreign Affairs Commiittee and released today appear to suggest the opposite, prompting politicians to claim the Prime Minister was dishonest about his full role in the operation.

One email sent on August 25, 2020 by a foreign office official working in Tory Peer Zac Goldsmith's office, specifically state Mr Johnson had personally authorised the animal evacution. 

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In one message to the department's special cases team managing part of the airlift operation, the official said that Mr Farthing's charity Nowzad had "received a lot of publicity", adding that the "PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated”.

They aksed for help with another charity who were hoping to get their staff out of Kabul. 

The email stated:" [animal charity – name redacted] are (an) animal charity operating in Kabul and seeking to evacuation their members of staff (no animals).

"Equivalent charity Nowzad, run by an ex-Royal Marine, has received a lot of publicity and the PM has just authorised their staff and animals to be evacuated, [animal charity] are hoping to be treated in the same capacity."

A total of 173 dogs and cats fromPen Farthing's Nowzad charity were rescued from the country, while many people who had worked with UK forces over the years or who were in danger of being killed were left behind. 

Mr Johnson previously said that the suggestion he had intervened in the Nowzad case was "complete nonsense" and that he had "no influence on that particular case”. He added: “Nor would that be right.”

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A second email, sent to then Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab's private secretary, from an official working on the Kabul evacuation, also asked for help for an animal charity.

It said: In light of the PM’s decision earlier today to evacuate the staff of the Nowzad animal charity, the [animal charity – name redacted] is asking for agreement to the entry of [details redacted] staff, all Afghan nationals."

It comtinued: "Having regard to the Prime Minister’s Nowzad decision, the Foreign Secretary might consider the [details redacted] vets and their dependents should be included.  They might be able to get to the airport with their dependents in time." 

The evidence was submitted to the committee by Raphael Marshall, who worked for the Foreign Office at the time and has claimed that the animals were evacuated following a direct instruction from the Prime Minister.

Downing Street distanced Mr Johnson from involvement in the decision on evacuating the Nowzad animals, when asked about the claims on today.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It remains the case that the PM didn’t instruct officials to take any particular course of action.”

But Dominic Dyer, who led the political lobbying campaign from the UK for Nowzad to be evacuated, said Mr Johnson’s refusal to acknowledge his role in the evacuation had “tarnished” the campaign.

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Mr Dyer said the emails published by the committee “vindicated” what he had previously said and argued that the Prime Minister could be “very proud of giving support to this as a humanitarian rescue mission”.

He told PA news agency: “I’m not certain why he didn’t feel he could explain his involvement in August at the end of this operation.

“I don’t know why, and I don’t know why this was allowed to turn into such a big political football, for the Ministry of Defence to fall out with the Foreign Office and for Downing Street to say it had no role in it.

“It has tarnished what has been a very important operation that had huge public support, and I think that’s a sad indictment of our political system at the moment, which the Prime Minister presides over, to be quite frank.”

Mr Johnson has been accused of “lying” about his hand in the evacuation.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “Once again, the Prime Minister has been caught out lying about what he has been doing and deciding.

“He should never have given priority to flying animals out of Afghanistan while Afghans who worked for our armed forces were left behind.

“In this case, (as) people were fleeing in terror as the Taliban took over Kabul and British forces were putting their lives at risk, the Prime Minister was once again prioritising the wrong things and making the wrong calls.

“We need to know why the PM overruled the Defence Secretary with this decision.”

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokeswoman Layla Moran called for Mr Johnson to “immediately make a public statement to correct the record and for once tell the truth”.

However defence secretary Ben Wallace has rejected the claims and said Mr Johnson did not authorise the evacuation.

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In a statement, Mr Wallace said: " I have seen the reports of emails concerning Pen Farthing and the pet evacuation.

“The evacuation of Kabul under Operation Pitting was run under my authority and delivered by the UK military through the Chief of Joint Operations.

“At no point were he or I directed by the Prime Minister to evacuate Pen Farthing, his workforce or his pets."

He continued: "As I made clear at the time, we were not going to put pets before people and as the actions showed, Pen Farthing left last and his workforce had to leave after the evacuation was concluded via other means.

“The evacuation was a Ministry of Defence led operation, supported by application processing by the Home Office and FCDO. The idea that an environment minister and his officials had any authority or responsibility in the running of the evacuation is ludicrous.

“I am however aware of false claims made throughout by Nowzad that led to considerable distress and distraction to those trying to save lives in very difficult circumstances.”