Following viral images and reports to the contrary, the Pentagon is disputing claims that it did not evacuate all dogs that worked with the US during operations in Afghanistan.
Conservative activists, politicians, and animal lovers raised concerns online in the final days of America’s longest war that the country was not evacuating its service dogs.
On Tuesday, the Pentagon denied that any dogs that had worked with the US military had been abandoned in the country, while admitting that a series of social media posts about nonmilitary evacuation of Kabul pets had caused confusion. “To correct erroneous reports, the United States military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, including the reported ‘military working dogs,'” said Eric Pahon, a Defense Department spokesman.
An animal welfare group on the ground has been working in recent days to evacuate animals on the ground in Kabul, including some dogs contracted with Kabul security services, according to the group. The Pentagon denied ever having these animals in their care. On August 27, Kabul Small Animal Rescue, an animal welfare organization that has cared for animals injured or displaced during Afghanistan’s war, announced on Twitter that it was attempting to evacuate animals in the cargo hold of planes departing Kabul’s airport.
The animals were being flown out as part of the group’s “Operation Hercules,” a countrywide crowdfunded effort. That work had been ongoing for several days before the viral images began to circulate.
The animals were described as “dogs and cats left behind as people flee” in Kabul in an older social media post by the group. It made no mention of the animals being service animals or having been contracted to work with the United States military. SPCA International issued an update on Tuesday evening, stating that Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, the KSAR’s founder, had rescued at least 130 animals and was working with US forces to evacuate them from the country. This included “46 working dogs and several personal pets belonging to fleeing Americans,” according to the group.
On Sunday, the veterans organization Veteran Sheepdogs of America shared a photo on Twitter of some animals in crates in front of a damaged military plane. According to the post, the plane is at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
On Monday, the president and CEO of American Humane, an animal welfare organization, wrote an open letter criticizing the military for allegedly abandoning animals that had worked with the US.
The crate image, along with others, was shared online by pundits and lawmakers who were critical of the United States’ overall withdrawal.
“Infuriating. Biden left Americans stranded. He left our allies stranded. He has now stranded our devoted K-9 warriors “Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., posted the letter from American Humane on Twitter. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, R-NY, expressed a similar sentiment on Twitter: “It’s so sad and heartless! Not only did the Biden Administration abandon our citizens and Afghan partners. They also abandoned dozens of service dogs.”
Conservative activists rallied even more around the fate of military animals, sharing images and memes and creating a hashtag on social media.
The Defense Department, on the other hand, claims that no military service dogs or contracted animals were left in the country.
According to the organization, “numerous private charter aircraft were denied access to the airport.” The organization did not know if the military had evacuated the dogs, which it claimed were contracted working dogs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prohibits dogs from countries with a high rabies incidence from traveling to the United States, and Afghanistan is one of those countries.
The torrent was created after the military was chastised on social media for photos and videos purportedly showing US forces prioritizing evacuating service dogs over Afghans fleeing the Taliban.
U.S. forces left the country in the early hours of Tuesday, meeting President Joe Biden’s deadline for American forces to leave. Secretary of State Antony Blinken estimated that there were still at least 100 Americans in the country who wanted to leave.
According to the Defense Department, it evacuated more than 124,000 people from Afghanistan, including approximately 6,000 Americans, in the largest airlift in US history.