No U.S. military dogs left behind this time
KABUL, Afghanistan; NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana––The last U.S. military flight from Kabul, Afghanistan lifted off on August 30, 2021 at 3:29 p.m. local time, evoking memories of the 1975 last U.S. military flight from Saigon, Vietnam.
No animals were aboard either the final U.S. military flight from Kabul or the final U.S. military flight from Saigon, but the last U.S. military dogs in Afghanistan were evacuated en masse on August 16, 2021, whereas U.S. military dogs in Saigon were left behind.
Rumor has long held that at least some of the dogs abandoned in Vietnam were eaten in celebration by the victorious Viet Cong.
Stronger winds than Katrina
Hurricane Ida meanwhile battered coastal Louisiana with sustained winds of 149 miles per hour, stronger than Katrina, with a peak gust of 172 miles per hour clocked by a ship offshore. After landfall, Ida rapidly slowed from a Category 4 hurricane into a tropical storm.
Drenching the Appalachians with up to nine inches of rain in 24 hours, Ida howled into Port Fourchon and New Orleans on August 29, 2021, sixteen years to the day after Hurricane Katrina hit.
In the first hours after Hurricane Ida passed, “Almost 200 [New Orleans] residents and over two dozen pets were rescued by the National Guard,” Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards told WDSU-TV of New Orleans.
Both the final U.S. evacuation of Kabul and the approach of Hurricane Ida featured intensive multi-day efforts to move animals out of anticipated harm’s way.
The animal evacuation ahead of Hurricane Ida was driven by clear necessity and regional animal shelters’ previous experience, not only with Hurricane Katrina but also with many other hurricanes since then.
Early reports from the Hurricane Ida disaster area indicate few animal deaths, but some damage to animal care facilities, and perhaps months of operational stress ahead due to the destruction of an estimated 2,000 miles of electrical transmission wires.
Offsetting that, lessons learned since Katrina include that many and perhaps most animal care facilities in the hurricane belt now have installed generating capacity enough to keep lights on, electronic communications open, and pumps running, so that animals are not left without water.
Less clear is whether there ever was really any urgent need for the heroic efforts that extracted British animal advocate Pen Farthing and about 170 animals from his Nowzad shelter in Kabul, while leaving behind Charlotte Maxwell-Jones of Kabul Small Animal Rescue.
Farthing, 52, the retired British Royal Marine who founded and ran the Nowzad shelter in Kabul for slightly more than a decade, made extensive use of mass media contacts to pressure the British government to make exceptions for his organization to procedural rules meant to prioritize the evacuation of non-Afghan personnel and their families, together with Afghans who had worked closely with British and American occupying forces and their immediate families.
Maxwell-Jones, partnering with Nowzad in Kabul, conducted a similar campaign via social media, directed chiefly at U.S. government agencies.
Pen Farthing evac upstaged misdirected drone strike
The U.S. final evacuation followed a misdirected drone strike that killed ten members of the Ahmadi and Nejrabi families, ages from two to 40. Seven victims in all were children, including twin two-year-old girls,
The two families, according to Al Jazeera Kabul correspondent Ali M. Latifi, “had packed all their belongings, waiting for word to be escorted to Kabul airport and eventually moved to the United States,” when the drone hit.
Latifi reported from the scene shortly after U.S. spokespersons claimed a drone had destroyed a car bomb similar to the one that on August 26, 2021 killed 13 U.S. Marines and 170 Afghan civilians outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Reports about the last civilian casualties in Afghanistan resulting directly from the U.S. and British presence were upstaged by global celebration after Farthing landed in London with 100 dogs and 70 cats.
Did Boris Johnson intervene?
“The former marine revealed almost all of his 170 Afghan strays have already been lined up for loving British homes,” reported Josh White for The Daily Mail.
“But he said five cats lost their lives on the first leg of the journey due to the effects of the trauma of the Isis-K airport bombing and subsequent tear gas,” White continued.
The Nowzad evacuation was completed five days after Daily Mail reporter Jack Wright wrote that British prime minister “Boris Johnson is believed to have personally overruled his defense secretary’s desire to prioritize human over animal evacuations.
“Ben Wallace,” the defense secretary, “had been adamant that the Ministry of Defense would prioritize people,” Wright explained. “But Mr Johnson is said to have overruled the policy following a ‘huge’ swell of public support” for Farthing’s demand that the Nowzad animals be allowed to leave Kabul on a charter flight.
“Animal rights campaigner Dominic Dyer, a friend of Mr Farthing, told MailPlus that the u-turn followed an intervention from the Prime Minister’s wife Carrie Johnson – a keen supporter of animal welfare issues.
“But the claim was quickly dismissed by the Ministry of Defense,” Wright added, “with a spokesperson reportedly telling Sky News that it was a lie.”
Whatever the case, Farthing and the Nowzad animals got out, while Charlotte Maxwell-Jones of Kabul Small Animal Rescue did not.
Neither were an unknown number of dogs and cats whom Maxwell-Jones had gathered evacuated.
Claiming a Ph.D. in classical art and archaeology from the University of Michigan, Maxwell-Jones has worked with a variety of nonprofit organizations in Afghanistan since 2010. Her Kabul Small Animal Rescue work, underway since 2016, has been done in partnership with “Puppy Rescue Mission,” a project of SPCA International.
Based in New York City, raising $21 million in 2019, SPCA International has at best a checkered history, and claims little by way of program service that can easily be verified either from public records or through at-the-scene observation and reportage.
Among the few SPCA International programs that have been verifiable has been transporting some adopted animals from Kabul to the U.S.––an activity, however, which appears to have ended after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention [CDC] prohibited imports of dogs from 113 nations known to have endemic canine rabies, Afghanistan among them.
Mad dogs & Afghanistan
“During 2020, the CDC discovered more than 450 dogs arriving in the US with falsified or fraudulent rabies certificates, a 52% increase compared with the previous two years.” National Public Radio reported.
At least one of those dogs, brought from Azerbaijan, proved to be actively rabid.
SPCA International executive director Meredith Ayan was among the heads of organizations that had been importing dogs who denounced the CDC decision.
Despite the CDC edict, Maxwell-Jones and supporters spammed U.S. agencies with appeals for exceptions to be made, and even spammed the Facebook page of London-based Mayhew International.
Mayhew International has operated a an outpatient spay/neuter and vaccination clinic in Kabul since 2002, under Afghan veterinarian Abdul Jalil Mohammadzai.
Mayhew as of August 23, 2021 had temporarily closed the spay/neuter and vaccination clinic, but hoped to reopen it after conditions stabilize following the Taliban return to government.
Maxwell-Jones claimed to have taken in animals from the Mayhew shelter when the Mayhew personnel evacuated. However, the Mayhew pointed out that it has never had a shelter in Afghanistan.
“Military forcibly released all the rescue dogs”
Posted a spokesperson for Kabul Small Animal Rescue on August 30, 2021, “We could not evacuate the rescue dogs. The Department of Defense made a policy decision, and we were not the only organization affected.
“We assure you our inability to get these dogs out was not for lack of trying,” the statement continued. “Over the course of the week there were many charter flights booked and every single one fell apart for any reason you can think of.
“At the end, the military forcibly released all the rescue dogs as the last U.S. plane was departing. To be clear, they were not left in their cages to suffer.
Maxwell-Jones remained in Kabul
“Charlotte has chosen to remain in Kabul because she refused to give up one of the disabled rescue puppies in order to get on a flight. She is no longer at the airport,” the statement said.
“Our staff are safe, and for their safety and the operational security of ongoing events, it’s all we can say at the moment. There will be renewed rescue efforts starting on or about September 2, 2021.
“Our cats never cleared the gate of the airport,” the statement finished. “We could not let them go and they are safe at Nowzad for now. We’ll look at evacuating them out as things settle.”
No clear reason to evacuate animals
Overlooked amid the chaos was that there never was any evident need to evacuate either dogs or cats from Kabul.
The Taliban during their previous regime, 1996-2001, did not routinely massacre street dogs, unlike the U.S.-backed government of Afghanistan, which poisoned as many as 17,600 dogs in Kabul in 2013 alone.
The Taliban, like almost every other government in the world, shoots suspected rabid dogs.
Otherwise, dogs in Afghanistan under the Taliban in 2006-2001 lived much as they have for thousands of years, cared for by some, mistreated by a few, and mostly just left alone to go about their business.
Ida story so far is single-animal incidents
Back in the U.S., local newscasts spotlighted the arrival of dogs and cats evacuated from the anticipated path of Hurricane Ida at dozens of animal shelters from Massachusetts to California
Otherwise, most of the animal stories emerging from the wake of Hurricane Ida involved single-animal incidents.
A 71-year-old Slidell man was reported missing, for instance, after an alligator attack in floodwaters near Lake Pontchartrain.
Sheriff’s deputies said the man’s wife pulled him away from the alligator, then took a boat to get help. A six-hour search found no trace of the reported victim.
The Audubon Zoo in New Orleans announced that, “due to the severe weather associated with Hurricane Ida, a fence was breached in Audubon Zoo’s barasingha deer habitat,” enabling three deer to escape.
Two of deer were corralled right away. The third returned to their enclosure a day later.