According to video recently obtained by the UK’s Telegraph, Taliban fighters in Eastern Afghanistan have captured a possible Military Working Dog (MWD) working with Britain’s SAS. The short video was reportedly released through a Twitter account known to share Taliban propaganda, and shows several Taliban fighters surrounding the chained MWD while holding at least two M-4 style rifles decked out with suppressors, advanced optics, and other special furniture.
While not much is known about the video or MWD at this time, an ISAF spokesman recently confirmed that an MWD had gone missing during a night raid and firefight with Taliban fighters in the Alingar district of Laghman province on 23 December. A Taliban spokesman in a phone interview claimed that in the firefight, “The mujahideen valorously put tough resistance against the troops for hours.”
According to the Telegraph, the date the MWD went missing also coincides with a British SAS operation “east of Kabul in which a special forces soldier, Captain Richard Holloway…was killed.” The UK Ministry of Defence declined to comment on the nationality of the dog and any possible special forces operations.
Based on preliminary reporting from various sources, the MWD is apparently a Belgian Malinois named Colonel (or was named after a Colonel according to the Taliban), and was found wearing a small GPS tracking device, a torch, and a small camera. All of these items were located on a shoulder harness system worn by Colonel, the same kind of harness used to hoist the MWD in and out of difficult terrain via helicopter insertion or extraction. In the video footage, Colonel was shown looking subdued, slightly undernourished, and was standing in place with a chain for a leash.
While not much more is known at this time, there is a remote possibility that Colonel is simply a foreign dog somehow acquired by the Taliban to appear like an SAS MWD. However, such an ill-conceived Taliban propaganda effort is unlikely due to several alleged local reports of a senior Taliban commander in the Alin Nigar area that was seen with a “foreign dog”. Colonel also appears better fed than local Afghan breeds. Colonel’s resemblance to a Belgian shepherd also disputes this possibility.
According to a Pentagon spokesman recently, this is the first incident in which an MWD had been taken captive. While there have been instances in Iraq where insurgents had featured dogs in insurgent propaganda previously, it was in the context of using the dogs as unwitting suicide bombers.
It is currently unknown what kind of recovery effort could be launched to retrieve Colonel from his senior Taliban captor. It is likely some measure of effort will be made by coalition SOF to rescue Colonel from his captivity or at least attempt to track his location, due to Colonel’s undoubtedly close bond with his handler. It is possible Colonel could have become separated from his handler during the reported firefight with the Taliban, making it impossible for anyone to recover him while on-scene during the mission.
If there are any current or former handlers out there, we want to hear what you have to say. You know better than anyone the kind of bond that exists between dog and handler, and the awesome capabilities they bring to the fight.
The video can be viewed here.
Thanks for listening.