(Update) Taliban Capture Coalition Military Dog

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The newly unveiled U.S. Military Working Dog Teams National Monument at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, the home to the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Program and the world’s largest training center for military dogs and handlers and also home to the largest veterinary hospital for military working dogs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Benjamin Faske)

Update:

The British military dog captured by the Taliban is in good health and “being fed a diet of chicken and beef kebabs,” according to his captors, the U.K Telegraph reports.

According to the Telegraph:

Locals in Alingar Valley, in the eastern province of Laghman, said the dog was being held by a notoriously brutal commander who goes by the nom de guerre of Abu Zarqawi.

“I saw it six days ago with Taliban and it looked OK,” said one man speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Stars and Stripes says that President Hamid Karzai has “chafed” at the use of military dogs by international forces because Afghans, like many other Muslims, consider dogs as unclean.

Below is a screen grab from the Taliban video purportedly showing the captured NATO dog.

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Original Post:

I love dogs and I love to write about dogs.

I find that many other people like dogs and dog stories.

Whether I write about military working dogs, or therapy dogs, or rescue or drug-sniffing dogs, those pieces become some of the most “liked” ones.

Others and I have written about these wonderful, loyal and intelligent animals who not only protect our troops in the battlefield, root out drugs, explosives and criminals, but also bring a smile to the faces of the sick and the elderly and are therapy to the traumatically stressed, the sick and the injured.

When it comes to military working dogs, these magnificent creatures perform heroic acts, are honored for them and receive awards and decorations, are given “ military ranks” — which they sometimes wear in the form of a patch on their body armor — and eventually retire from their faithful service. Recently, a monument was dedicate in their honor. (Lead photo)

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U.S. Air Force Maj. Ryan Bodge, 366th Security Forces Squadron commander, pins a Commendation Medal on retired military working dog Tanja while the canine’s last handler, Tech. Sgt. Roseann Kelly, looks on at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Jan. 31, 2013. Tanja, a detection and patrol dog, retired after more than 11 years of service and five deployments. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Benjamin Sutton)

Sadly, just like their human military brethren, they are also injured and many are killed in action.

A July 2012 article in the New York Times, describing the medical care these dogs receive in and out of combat, reported that as of that date, of the 2,700 dogs serving in the armed forces, 29 had been killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These dogs share all the hardships, dangers, trials and tribulations their human handlers face and endure, including — as mentioned — injury and the ultimate sacrifice.

But there has been one combat fate that, to my knowledge, our four-legged warriors have not shared with their military friends, until today, if media reports prove to be true.

The Washington Post and other news sources are reporting what seems to be a sad first in the history of our wars and conflicts.*

The Taliban claim that they have captured an International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service dog — a Belgian Malinois according to a video they released — “after a long firefight between coalition forces and Taliban fighters in the Alin Nigar district of Afghanistan’s Laghman province in late December,” according to a spokesman, and as reported by the Post, which adds, “The dog, [the spokesman] said, carries the rank of colonel and was outfitted with sophisticated electronic devices.”

The Post provides a link to the video, where the dog can be seen on a tight leash, somewhat confused and mournfully looking at the camera at times while surrounded by armed men, one of them exclaiming, according to the Post, “Allah gave victory to the mujahideen! Down with them, down with their spies!”

The Post:

Lt. Col. Will Griffin, a spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan, confirmed Thursday in an e-mail that the force lost a military working dog during an operation in December. He did not provide further details. Officials at the Pentagon said they could recall no prior instance of a military working dog being taken captive.

The canine was attached to a British Special Forces unit that was engaged in a fatal firefight on Dec. 23, according to a military official who confirmed the nationality of the dog on the condition of anonymity because the British Defense Ministry has chosen not to do so.

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The video caught the attention of analysts at SITE Intelligence Group, which tracks and studies insurgent propaganda. The group’s founder, Rita Katz, said she could not recall anything like it.

“I don’t remember seeing a dog used as a hostage,” she said after checking her database. The only time canines were featured in insurgent propaganda, Katz said, was in Iraq, when insurgents once proposed using them as unsuspecting suicide bombers.

Kevin Dredden, a former Air Force dog handler and Afghanistan veteran who works as a program manager at AMK9, a firm that trains dogs to work with law enforcement and military units, says that one thing is certain: “I know for sure the handler is devastated,” noting the tight bonds that handlers and military dogs forge, according to the Post.

So are we.

* Note: ThinkProgress reports that “a British dog named Judy spent months as the only official canine prisoner of war during World War II”

Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

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