WASHINGTON: The Defence Department has 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. The Pentagon has 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.
“To correct erroneous reports, the US military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, to include the reported ‘military working dogs,’’ Defense Department spokesperson Eric Pahon said.
The reactions from the Pentagon came in the backdrop of media reports that claimed hundreds of contracted service dogs were left behind by the US military as it raced to meet the August 31 deadline.
Major animal welfare groups have strongly condemned the US military for abandoning these contracted service dogs as they exited from the war-ravaged nation. ‘Veteran Sheepdogs of America’, a non-profit organisation is now working to evacuate these poor animals from Afghanistan along with other groups.
“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.
“It sickens us to sit idly by and watch these brave dogs who valiantly served our country be put to death or worse,” he said.
Earlier this month, three Indian service dogs – Maya, Ruby and Bobby – that were deployed at the Indian Embassy in Kabul, along with 99 Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) personnel, were repatriated by the Indian Air Force during the evacuation process.
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.
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, later in a statement, defended his decision to stick to a Tuesday deadline for withdrawing US 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.