Members of the US forces, together with their military dogs, have evacuated Afghanistan on August 16, 2021. This comes after US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US troops in the ravaged country that started in May 2021.
The dogs were held on leashes while being escorted by their handlers, awaiting military transport on the tarmac of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. US military planes are seen flying overhead as chaos in the city erupts with thousands of Afghans trying to flee the country fearing oppressive Taliban rule.
People around the world were shocked to see Afghans desperately crowding a military plane trying to take off from the airport. Several people died falling from the ascending plane as they clung onto the plane’s wheels.
Social Media Reactions
An image captured by Stars and Stripes correspondent, Phillip Walter Wellman, circulated on social media showing the back of a head of a dog aboard a commercial plane flying out of Kabul, as part of the coverage of events on August 15 to 16, 2021, in Afghanistan.
This has drawn ire from many citizens of Afghanistan, as well as journalists, observing that the US military cared more for their dogs but left behind the many Afghans who had worked with them.
Richard Engel, chief foreign correspondent for NBC News, posted on social media, “Many Afghans were outraged and offended that Americans evacuated service dogs in Kabul, but left people behind, including so many who helped the United States.”
Dogs Of War
Throughout the 20-year war in Afghanistan, the military has depended on the help of thousands of military working dogs to help them keep safe and make their operations easier. These dogs were trained to detect explosives, find contraband drugs, search missing comrades, and conduct security operations at various villages.
These dogs also serve as therapy dogs, service dogs, companion dogs for the soldiers stationed there, and a lot of them got injured and some died serving the military. The dogs share the same kind of risk that their handlers experience on the battlefield.
As President Biden announced the withdrawal of US troops in Afghanistan, a lot of service members have requested animals to be moved out of the country as soon as possible.
Michelle Smith, executive director of Puppy Rescue Mission, said, “there is often a rush to move animals out when the bases close.” She added, “the guys who are shutting down that location don’t want to leave the animals behind that they’ve been feeding and caring for.” She noted that there is always an increase in rescue dogs every time a base or camp is shut down as it happened in 2014 when troops were being withdrawn.
Staff Sgt. Katie Catania, who worked in Kandahar Airfield and left Afghanistan early in 2021, is one such service member who decided to adopt the two dogs whom she fell in love with while stationed there.
Sgt. Catania said, “If I could give these dogs a better life than just leaving them there in Afghanistan with an unknown future, then I was going to try.” She reunited with the dogs recently and wanted to bring the dogs along with her to Utah. She also said,” I’d really like to take them out hiking and exploring and just spoil them.”