- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Earlier this week, ISAF Deputy Chief Lt. Gen. Nick Carter warned against a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying:
It would be unforgivable if we allowed the gains of the last three years to be lost because we were not able to provide the Afghans with the support to take this through into 2014."
In the wake of Carter’s comments the news that British Forces are not pulling back their canine forces but fortifying them is of particular interest. As part of the overall NATO drawdown, British troops are set to pull back nearly half their forces by the end of 2013. But last month, the remaining combat-ready dog teams of the 104 Military Working Dog Unit deployed to Afghanistan as part of Operation Herrick, bringing their number to 90 teams in all. Perhaps more noteworthy still is that this number is relatively higher than that of dogs on the ground two years ago, when British Forces had approximately 70 dog teams in Afghanistan in 2011.
The newest British dog teams in Afghanistan will be part of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Search Task Force, which pulls its canine teams from a total of "15 units from all three services." The job of these dogs is really no more special or any different than it’s been throughout the war — they will be "patrolling the bases where fellow British soldiers are based, searching vehicles at checkpoints and going out on patrols on the front line." But now that NATO forces are preparing to disengage, these dog teams will also play a role in "mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces" and helping to facilitate the coming transition.
Many of these British handlers who deployed in March are going into combat with their dogs for the first time. They’ve had one full year of training and their commander Major Ian Razzell has full confidence in their abilities as well as their certain success. "I am proud of every single soldier," he said. "They will do a good job, there is no doubt about it, they are first rate professional soldiers as well as dedicated handlers.
Bonus Note: The 1st Military Dog Regiment’s motto is Vires in Varietate: Strength in Diversity.
Rebecca Frankel is away from her FP desk, working on a book about dogs and war.