The Pentagon has denied reports that it had left behind military working dogs in Afghanistan. The statement was made in response to widely-circulated photos of dogs seemingly left inside cages at an aircraft hangar at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The photos had led people on social media to believe that the U.S. military might have left the dogs in the country in their haste to evacuate before the Aug. 31 deadline. The U.S. military has already been criticized for leaving behind high-tech military equipment and assets, including Black Hawk helicopters, which have now fallen into Taliban hands.
Department of Defense spokesperson, Eric Pahon, said reports of the military leaving behind working dogs were untrue. He said while the department had prioritized the evacuation of people, it had also made sure that the working dogs had returned home with their handlers.
"To correct erroneous reports, the US military did not leave any dogs at Hamid Karzai International Airport," Pahon said.
Pahon said the country had invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the special training of its military working dogs and it would not leave them behind.
The American Humane Society had speculated earlier that the dogs that were left at the airport in the pictures may have been contacted military working dogs that belonged to a third-party company hired by the U.S. military. The organization said that even if the dogs were not owned by the U.S., it was still "devastating" to know that they were all left behind.
The organization's president and CEO, Dr. Robin R. Ganzert, said the dogs should have been brought home given the dangerous and life-saving work they do for troops. He added that the dogs deserved a far better fate than to be tortured or killed by the country's enemies.
An animal rights group in Afghanistan called the Kabul Small Animal Rescue (KSAR) has volunteered to rescue the abandoned dogs. The Department of Defense said it has been working with the group to rescue the animals. The agency estimated that there may be around 150 contract military dogs left in Afghanistan.
UPDATE!!!! Our efforts of rescuing has expanded to 46 military working & now we are coordinating with our contacts & flights to get the dogs and rescue people out of Kabul on same plane.
Thank you for all your help! This is a mess! #Afghanistan https://t.co/3vaYMaMAyd pic.twitter.com/OAtPXANxb6 — Veteran Sheepdogs of America (@VetSheepdogsUS) August 29, 2021
KSAR is reportedly attempting to raise funds to secure a charter flight to transport the dogs to safety. GardaWorld, a military contractor that owns some of the dogs, said it is working with KSAR to bring its dogs back home safely.
"Our team has worked relentlessly with numerous dedicated charities to rescue our dogs and all the animals under KSAR's care," GardaWorld said.