Rumors had been circulating since December that the Taliban in Afghanistan had a captured a military dog from coalition forces. Now the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the NATO group that supports anti-insurgent efforts in Afghanistan, confirms that the rumors are true and that the dog was originally part of a British military unit.
The Taliban had earlier released a video of the animal, named “Colonel,” and claimed it had been captured from American troops. When taken, the animal was carrying a GPS tracking device, as well as a flashlight and camera mounted on its back.
The dog is reported to have been captured in a night raid in Laghman in eastern Afghanistan late last year. The video of the dog, which also shows Taliban fighters showing off seized American weaponry, is the first positive evidence of his capture. There is no firm indication yet, however, of how long ago the video was recorded or whether Colonel is still in insurgents’ hands, but in the video he is still wearing his military harness, suggesting the footage was taken shortly after his capture.
David Loyn of the BBC’s Kabul office says that “dogs are considered unclean by Afghans, and their use by international forces in house searches has been controversial. Rumors and myths have risen among insurgents about the capacity of dogs, including the widely held belief among Taliban fighters that the dogs are trained to kill.” Loyn further speculates that once his “trophy value” has been exhausted, Colonel’s fate may be bleak.
Coalition forces have been using dogs—mostly German shepherds, Labradors, or spaniels—for protection and, increasingly, finding explosives. Colonel’s breed is unclear, but he is medium-sized and reddish-brown.
Dogs have been used for various tasks in warfare since antiquity. In WWI, more than one million dogs perished in battle, mostly in carrying messages between posts. In that war, a pit bull known as Sgt. Stubby was the first dog ever to be given a military rank (of Sergeant) after he flushed out a German spy. Doberman Pinschers were the official dog of the US Marine Corps in the Pacific in WWII and saw extensive combat operations. A Belgian shepherd was attached to the Navy SEALs unit that killed Osama bin Laden.
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