Around the world, people have been anxiously watching the situation in Afghanistan unfold and change rapidly. The mandatory August 31st evacuation date has now passed, which will make any future evacuation efforts increasingly more difficult and dangerous.
One of the individuals that has had much attention during this crisis is Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, an American, who founded Kabul Small Animal Rescue in Afghanistan. Despite recommendations from the US government and threats from the Taliban, Maxwell-Jones refused to leave Afghanistan without the 40 people on her rescue staff and their 250 animals. The evacuation mission, called “Operation Hercules,” received hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations.
The Evacuation Attempt
On August 23, Maxwell-Jones posted a video update on the rescue’s Facebook page explaining how armed Taliban guards came to her house and stayed on her lawn. She explained that they promised to give her and her staff safe passage as long as she left first; however, she didn’t believe that they would actually follow through with letting her staff leave.
According to the rescue’s update from Sunday, August 29th, an airplane and landing permissions were secured and plans were in place to evacuate everyone to the US. The update emphasized that this would be their last chance to leave. Sadly, things did not go exactly as planned, partially due to the CDC’s policy of not allowing dogs from certain countries, including Afghanistan, where there is a higher risk of rabies. The SPCAI applied for an emergency exemption to this rule, but it did not work.
Getting the Facts Straight
A significant amount of misinformation has circulated online about this operation as well as the evacuation of animals from the region in general. SPCA International has been providing updates to clear up confusion. Their most recent update stated, “the dogs and their caretakers were explicitly NOT allowed to board military aircraft, and numerous private charter aircraft were not granted access to the airport either.” Furthermore, as of the August 30th update, the KSAR staff and cats were not allowed to enter the airport, and Maxwell-Jones was escorted by the Taliban back to the shelter with one puppy on August 30.
Sadly, Maxwell-Jones was told that an unconfirmed number of dogs that had been under her care, were released and thus, became strays. Before leaving, Maxwell-Jones asked the military to open the bags of dog food that she brought and leave them out around the airport.
What Comes Next
KSAR is hoping to return to the airport when it is safe in order to re-rescue the dogs that were released. SPCAI is working to confirm the number of dogs that were released and gain more information about the incident. They also plan to continue to support KSAR and work towards evacuating Maxwell-Jones, her staff, and the animals.
“Our team has been working around the clock and has exhausted every possible option and resource we could in our mission to rescue the dogs before the U.S. military withdrawal from Afghanistan,” stated, Lori Kalef, Director of Programs at SPCA International. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to evacuate Kabul Small Animal Rescue’s staff and animals from the country after August 31.”
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