KABUL: The United States military has categorically denied reports that it left behind dozens of service dogs in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as it raced against time to meet the August 31 deadline for a complete withdrawal from the South Asian Islamic nation.
”Joint Task Force – Crisis Response, which helped facilitate evacuations out of Kabul, “did not leave any dogs at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. Photos circulating are not of military working dogs,” Marine Corps Forces Central Command said in a tweet.
The US Defence Department too rubbished media reports about the US military abandoning hundreds of contracted service dogs while exiting the war-ravaged Afghanistan after a 20-year-long war. Clearing the air, the Pentagon said that ”it is not true the US forces did not evacuate all dogs that worked with the American agencies during operations in Afghanistan.”
The Pentagon, while categorically denying that any service dog that had worked with the US military was left behind in the country, also acknowledged that a series of social media posts about the non-military evacuation of Kabul pets caused widespread confusion.
The clarification came after major animal welfare groups condemned the US military for reportedly abandoning these contracted service dogs as they exited from the war-ravaged nation.
‘Veteran Sheepdogs of America’, a non-profit organisation, said it is working to evacuate these poor animals from Afghanistan along with other groups.
US military left behind dozens of service dogs in Afghanistan.
The nonprofit org ‘Veteran Sheepdogs of America’ are working to evacuate the animals. pic.twitter.com/58EbrLUiz3
— ASB News / MILITARY (@ASBMilitary) August 31, 2021
“These brave dogs do the same dangerous, lifesaving work as our military working dogs, and deserved a far better fate than the one to which they have been condemned,” Robin R Ganzert, animal welfare group American Humane’s president and CEO, said.
The United States completed the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan on Monday, ending 20 years of war that culminated in the Taliban`s return to power.
Forced into a hasty and humiliating exit, Washington and its NATO allies carried out a massive but chaotic airlift over the past two weeks, but still left behind tens of thousands of Afghans who helped Western countries and might have qualified for evacuation. Celebratory gunfire rang out in Kabul after the completion of the US pullout that ended America`s longest war.
Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf said, “The last US soldier has left Kabul airport and our country gained complete independence,” Al Jazeera TV reported on Monday.
A contingent of Americans, estimated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken as under 200 and possibly closer to 100, wanted to leave but were unable to get on the last flights.
President Joe Biden, in a statement, defended his decision to stick to a Tuesday deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces even though it meant not everyone who wanted out could get out.
Biden has drawn heavy criticism from Republicans and some of his fellow Democrats for his handling of Afghanistan since the Taliban took over Kabul earlier this month after a lightning advance.
The 20-year conflict took the lives of nearly 2,500 US troops and an estimated 240,000 Afghans and cost some USD 2 trillion.