Veteran writes book about Afghan rescue operation

By Shivani Chaudhari

BBC News, Essex
8 July 2024
Nozad Pen Farthing looks directly at the camera as he holds a dog, he is sitting down and wearing Royal Marine commando gear.
Pen Farthing’s new book recounts his experience of evacuating his charity from Afghanistan in 2021

A former British Royal Marines commando said it was therapeutic to write a book about his experience of evacuating animals and people from Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover in 2021.

In the mid-2000s Paul Farthing, known as Pen, from Dovercourt, Essex, set up Nowzad, an animal charity in Kabul.

Mr Farthing made headlines three years ago when, following the withdrawal of UK and US troops from Afghanistan, he was accused of prioritising “pets over people” when evacuating his charity.

Mr Farthing said the “pets over people tagline was absolutely horrendous” and his evacuation, known as Operation Ark, saved 67 Afghan people and 171 animals.

In Afghanistan, Nowzad cared for dogs, cats and donkeys – some of which belonged to UK service men and women.


Mr Farthing said that his animal shelter had predominantly employed young Afghan women.

“I couldn’t bear the thought that we were going to just leave them behind,” he said.

Yet saving the staff and evacuating them out of Kabul meant that the animals in the shelter would have no-one to care for them, which is why both staff and pets were rescued, he said.

Mr Farthing told BBC Essex: “The ‘pets over people’ tagline was absolutely horrendous, until today we’ve never had any media outlet that has focused on the people we rescued.”

‘Dark memories’

When speaking about his book, called Operation Ark, he said: “The book was almost never written because I almost didn’t want to revisit it all because it would just drag up all of those dark memories I wanted to put behind me.”

“For me it was therapy, it was writing it and putting it all into place.

“I can say now that I have no regrets, we saved 67 people and 171 animals.”

He said he hoped the new book will put the “pets over people” accusations to rest.

He added that Nowzad is still operating and has been providing aid in Ukraine.

Veteran writes book about Afghan rescue operation