Operation Ark returns to haunt Boris

22 March 2022

12:08 AM

22 March 2022

12:08 AM

Boris Johnson is doing rather well on Ukraine at the moment, thanks to Britain’s role in sending arms and training instructors there. But now another military crisis from the not-so-recent past threatens to block the greased pig’s escape from political danger yet again. For this afternoon the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) will be taking evidence on Operation Ark, the evacuation of Pen Farthing’s sanctuary Nowzad from Afghanistan amid claims that the lives of animals were put before Afghans.

The blame game about who was responsible for the sorry episode has raged since August. In December, Foreign Office whistleblower Raphael Marshall released a devastating account of Britain’s exit from Afghanistan, including the claim that ‘there was a direct trade-off between transporting Nowzad’s animals and evacuating British nationals and Afghan evacuees.’

No. 10 still denies giving the green light to the scheme, even though multiple Foreign Office emails reference his involvement. In January, FAC published a paper trail which showed officials giving advice to the Foreign Secretary on how to enact ‘the Prime Minister’s Nowzad decision’ and transfer the animals out of Afghanistan. The campaign to get Farthing’s animals out was of course led by Dominic Dyer — a friend of Carrie Johnson, who until recently featured in her cover picture on Twitter.

But now a second whistleblower has come forward this morning to corroborate Marshall’s claims. Josie Stewart, the Foreign Office’s head of illicit finance, has effectively ended her career today by coming forward with her concerns. She has revealed that: ‘It was widespread ”knowledge” in the FCDO crisis centre that the decision on Nowzad’s Afghan staff came from the Prime Minister.’ She accused both the Foreign Office’s permanent secretary Sir Philip Barton and Nigel Casey, the Prime Minister’s special representative for Afghanistan, of having ‘intentionally lied’ to the Commons committee when they defended the PM in December.

Stewart, who volunteered to work on the response to the fall on Kabul, said:

I saw messages to this effect on Microsoft Teams, I heard it discussed in the crisis centre including by senior civil servants, and I was copied on numerous emails which clearly suggested this and which no-one, including Nigel Casey acting as ‘Crisis Gold’, challenged.

She said she ‘cannot fathom’ why they would do so but that ‘they must have done so’, adding: ‘I have tried to imagine but cannot conceive of any way this could have been an honest mistake.’ The two men are due to face the Foreign Affairs Committee this afternoon. Get the popcorn in for 4 p.m…

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