Dozens of canines abandoned during the tumultuous evacuations from Afghanistan last month have found a new home, as well as new handlers, at a temporary training centre at Kabul airport. Although the canines’ owner is unknown, several of them were discovered in the area of the airport used by US troops, and according to their new handlers, some of them were trained to detect bombs.
They are among the lingering effects of the twenty-year American engagement, which came to an abrupt end with the hasty evacuation of over one hundred and twenty thousand people out of Kabul as the Taliban reclaimed control.
As soon as the last US soldier departed, handler Hewad Azizi, who works for a business that handles airport security, claimed he rushed out seeking for abandoned dogs.
“I went to save the dogs when I saw (the soldiers) leaving,” he told AFP at the training facility, which is next to hangars used to store US military hardware and aircraft.
He discovered thirty of them, with half of them inside US military territory. Zones formerly occupied by Afghan police included more.
Azizi and his associates are now providing food, attention, and instruction to the dogs at the security company’s training facility, which consists of two repurposed shipping containers divided by a patch of weed-filled ground.
The longest war in American history came to an end on August 30, just in time for the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks, which sparked the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.
Animal rights organisation PETA stated in a statement that the US soldiers had left behind 60 bomb-sniffing dogs and 60 other “working dogs” hours after the last soldier had departed.
The canines were “suffering in the heat without adequate access to food or water,” the organisation said, pleading with President Joe Biden “to take immediate action.”
The US military soldiers left some of their pets at the airport, but the Pentagon swiftly refuted this.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby tweeted, “To correct erroneous reports, the US military did not leave any dogs in cages at Hamid Karzai International Airport, including the reported military working dogs.”
Azizi and his associates are unsure of who the prior owners were. Right now, their only concern is how to get them back to work when the airport opens as usual.
He clarified, saying, “We have trained with them to find out what they are used for exactly,” and that’s when we realised “they are bomb dogs.”
One of the more recent finds is Rex, Azizi’s beloved Malinois, who is dark brown in colour.
Every day, he walks Rex in a tiny, desolate region within a short distance from three former Afghan Air Force aircraft.
He conceals an explosive-smelling box in a tiny area of land scattered with gunshot casings and empty bags of US military food rations, and he sends Rex to get it.
Rex comes back a few seconds later with the box, and as a reward he gets to play with a ball.
According to Mohamad Mourid, a supervisor at the centre run by GAAC, the UAE-based business in charge of ground and security operations at the airport since last year, “we train them to see how we can use them.”
“We clean them, feed them, and provide water for them.”
The airport, which was closed for renovations after the evacuations, will soon be gradually reopening, meaning the dogs will have jobs.