In what is considered a first-of-a-kind event, Taliban forces in Afghanistan released a video of a canine prisoner of war (POW) and claimed the animal is a United States military dog. The video depicts a brown dog thought to be a Belgian Malinois, a breed commonly trained as military sniffer dogs.
The video, distributed on a pro-Taliban Twitter account, and released on Facebook shows the dog looking confused as long haired Taliban fighters hold a chain to his vest. “Allah gave victory to the Mujahedeen!” they shout. “Down with them, down with their spies!” The men show two M-4 assault rifles, a torch and a GPS device they alleged was fitted on the dog’s vest.
The Taliban claim the dog was captured during a battle on December 23, 2013 in Laghman province, east of the capital, Kabul. “The dog was of high significance to the Americans,” said Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid.
According to the Washington 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 video caught the attention of analysts at the 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.
Today, BBC reports the dog referred to as “Colonel” is a British trained military dog, not American. A BBC correspondent said there were reports that a high level Taliban commander had been spotted with a foreign dog.
Concerns among Taliban soldiers are that coalition forces train the dogs to kill. Culturally, many Muslims consider dogs to be unclean and do not treat them as pets which may explain their concern. Reports are that Colonel appears to be well fed.
What Happens Next?
The question now appears what will happen to this canine hero? Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said Colonel is alive and well but his fate will be determined later.
Will the Taliban demand a ransom to return the dog? Will he be killed? Will he be rescued and reunited with his handler? Will Colonel be considered as much a POW as a human soldier and be repatriated to his unit?
“Four years ago, an Australian bomb-sniffing dog was lost in Afghanistan and then adopted by a Taliban leader who tried to sell her back,” reports the Telegraph. The black Labrador, named Sabi, was eventually recovered by an American Special Forces soldier, having retrieved her from an unnamed man in north-eastern Oruzgan.
Military dogs have fought bravely and with much valor during many wars and conflicts; from Sgt. Stubby in World War I to the U.S. dogs left behind in Vietnam considered discarded military equipment. Recently, many cities and states have dedicated monuments to military dogs as societal attitudes have changed about the proper place a dog belongs in our lives.
Is it possible this is not the first time a military dog has been captured by the enemy? Certainly, but it is the first known time it has been filmed and released to the public, thanks to the internet and social media.
Stay tuned to Care2 for any updates as to Colonel’s situation.