The Taliban this week released a video that may well be the first of its kind — one that shows a dog they claim to be a U.S. military service dog, still wearing its gear, and that they say was captured after a lengthy firefight with American troops.
Wearing a dark vest and being lead on a leash before the camera, the dog — who is either named Colonel or the Taliban believes to hold the rank of colonel, depending on the report — was shown as a prize that the Taliban had captured after clashing with U.S. forces in Afghanistan’s Laghman province last December. The dog, a reddish-brown Belgian Malinois, stares mournfully at the camera at times while his captors shout “God is great” and brandish weapons. “Allah gave victory to the Mujahedeen!” one of the fighters yells, according to the Washington Post. “Down with them, down with their spies!”
A spokesperson for the NATO mission in Afghanistan, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), confirmed to the Post that a dog did go missing in action during an operation in December. A Pentagon spokesperson also told the Post that Defense Department officials could not recall any instance of an American working dog being captured. A British dog named Judy spent months as the only official canine prisoner of war during World War II, but no such American counterpart apparently exists.
Dogs have taken an active part in operations as part of the Military Working Dog Program in both Afghanistan and Iraq over the last decade, primarily serving in bomb- or drug-sniffing roles. While reports are numerous of dogs being killed in the line of duty, there is no one dedicated list of K09 who have died in service of their country in Afghanistan. “Regarding your specific question on number of dogs killed in action, this is not information that we have immediately available,” an ISAF spokesman told ThinkProgress in an email. “We can look to research and try and obtain some additional information on this for you,” the email continued.
While the dog in question is the likely first canine captured during Operation Enduring Freedom, it is not the only one serving in the mission to find themselves in the hands of the Taliban. Last month, the U.S. received the first video proof in years that the only human prisoner of war taken during the decade-long conflict in Afghanistan is still alive. U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl went missing in 2009 and is believed to be the captive of Taliban-linked fighters in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, concerns are mounting over the security situation that will remain in Afghanistan following the end of U.S. combat operations this year. Afghan president Hamid Karzai has thus far refused to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement negotiated between his country and the United States to allow a reduced number of American troops after 2014. Instead, the New York Times reported earlier this week, he has been conducting secret negotiations with the Taliban, all the while insisting that NATO conclude its own BSA with Afghanistan separate from the U.S.