LONDON: The British animal charity that was accused of evacuating cats and dogs over people from Afghanistan has returned to the country, with founder Pen Farthing calling on the UK government to accept the Taliban’s rule.
The Telegraph reported that Farthing, a former Royal Marine and founder of Nowzad, has been back to Afghanistan five times since the Taliban takeover, and has described the country’s regime as “friendly.”
Nowzad now runs a small center for pet care in Kabul and carries out vaccination and sterilization campaigns for cats and dogs.
The charity also hosts a sanctuary for donkeys and horses in the Afghan capital.
Farthing told The Economist that the Taliban has allowed the charity to “continue with our mission objectives,” describing communication with the regime as “always polite and friendly.”
He urged the UK and other Western countries to accept the Taliban’s rule, adding: “They are back in power because we put them back in power.”
Nowzad and Farthing were at the center of controversy during the Western evacuation of Kabul amid the Taliban takeover.
The charity airlifted 94 stray animals out of the Afghan capital on one of the last flights from the country following a high-profile appeal by Farthing.
As well as the animals, 67 Nowzad staff and family members also left the country for Pakistan, later making the journey to Britain.
Critics accused the charity chief of favoring animals over people, amid desperate scenes showing the masses of the Afghan public in Kabul airport attempting to board emergency flights.
In the wake of the evacuation, evidence suggested that former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had overruled the Foreign Office in permitting Nowzad’s position on the last-minute evacuation flights.
An inquiry later found that the charity’s appeal and evacuation had “absorbed significant time and resources of both civilian and military personnel.”
However, Farthing struck back at critics, arguing that the “privately funded” evacuation should be “rightly celebrated.”
In comments to The Telegraph, Maj. Andrew Fox, a three-tour veteran of Afghanistan, accused Farthing of “shilling Taliban propaganda.”
He added: “It really underlines his status as one of the great self-obsessed hypocrites of our time. It proves once and for all that he deliberately whipped up needless hysteria during the extraction, diverting time and effort away from saving lives.
“The Taliban are criticized by their fellow Muslims in other countries. They murdered over 400 British service members. Their position on women’s rights and education is abhorrent. Their barbaric policies are running Afghanistan into the ground.”
Nowzad’s website says that it is working to rebuild operations in Afghanistan, calling for Western engagement with the country’s Taliban rulers.
A statement says: “Still to this day, desperately needed aid money is being blocked from entering the country as Western leaders fail to engage in constructive dialog with the Afghan government — in our humble opinion, it is what it is.
“Now that we are back operating and the word is spreading, we have seen many concerned locals, who thankfully never looked the other way, bringing injured dogs and cats to us for treatment.
“We were actually quite overwhelmed when one happy rescuer returned with flowers to thank the team for treating the dog he had brought to us.”