According to a UK government whistleblower, Boris Johnson personally authorized the airlift for staff at a Kabul-based animal rights group owned by a former British soldier when the Taliban took control of the Afghan capital last year.
Josie Stewart, a senior Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office official who had previously worked on the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, said there was “ample evidence”, including internal emails, showing that the decision to evacuate giving priority to Pen Farthing’s Nowzad charity came from the Prime Minister.
Another whistleblower who used to work for the FCDO claimed that Johnson intervened to airlift Nowzad’s animals from Kabul and that cries for help from thousands of desperate Afghans trying to flee the Taliban were ignored.
Raphael Marshallwho was also involved in the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, told the House of Commons’ special committee on foreign affairs in December there was a “straight compromise” between the transport of Nowzad’s animals and the evacuation of British and Afghan nationals, including those associated with Britons soldiers had served.
Johnson has previously dismissed Marshall’s statement that he intervened to prioritize Nowzad’s staff and animals as “total rhubarb.”
In a seven-page written statement to the committee, Stewart said it was “widespread knowledge” at the FCDO’s Afghanistan Crisis Center that “the decision about Nowzad’s Afghan personnel came from the prime minister.”
Stewart said: “I’ve seen messages like this on Microsoft Teams, I’ve heard it being discussed at the crisis center, including by senior officials, and I’ve been duplicated in numerous emails that clearly suggested this and by no one, including Nigel Casey [UK special representative for Afghanistan] act as crisis gold [team leader]challenged.”
Stewart said the decision to give Nowzad’s staff priority in the Kabul evacuation last August was “merely a reaction to this ‘Prime Minister’s decision'” and contradicted the officials’ verdict.
She was referring to an email from Casey, copied into it, that said Sir Stephen Lovegrove, Johnson’s national security adviser, “would seek input from Number 10 on the Nowzad case.”
Stewart, the FCDO’s director of illicit finance, said she was not aware of any “conscious decision to prioritize animals over humans.”
But she said the Nowzad decision was “not in line with policy” and “carried a significant opportunity cost, measured in terms of the time senior officials would have devoted to the case.”
Stewart also accused Sir Philip Barton, the leader of the FCDO, of misleading Parliament over evidence of the Prime Minister’s involvement in Nowzad.
Barton told the committee in January that Casey had not received any correspondence regarding Johnson and Nowzad.
Stewart said: “Nigel Casey specifically stated that he searched his email and found nothing relevant, but when I searched my email for ‘PM’ and ‘Nowzad’ I found more than one email that referred to ‘the PM’s decision on Nowzad’ and with copy Nigel Casey.”
Stewart also dismissed a suggestion from Lord Zac Goldsmith, a Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that it was “not unusual” for decisions to be presented as coming from the Prime Minister.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my career. If that were the case, governance would collapse completely,” she said.
Stewart criticized the “lack of accountability” about the State Department’s management of the disengagement from Afghanistan.
“I feel a strong sense of moral injury for having been part of something so poorly managed and for having been so focused on managing reputational risk and political fallout rather than the actual crisis and the human tragedy it involves,” she said.
“This apparent failure led to confusion, impossible demands on the crisis team and aggravated the human tragedy in Kabul.”
The FCDO said: “Officials answered the committee’s questions at all times in good faith based on the evidence we had at the time.
“We are justifiably proud of our employees who have worked tirelessly to evacuate more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan in just two weeks.
“The prime minister has made it clear that he has no role in authorizing individual evacuations from Afghanistan. . . including Nowzad staff and animals.”
Downing Street did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
https://www.ft.com/content/fd5db57b-d4e0-407d-af22-d0f460bd34c3 British whistleblower claims Boris Johnson personally authorized the airlift for Afghan animal rights organizations