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U.S. Military War Dogs Used in Raid on Bin Laden Compound

The US Navy Seal team that raided Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was comprised of some of the hardest, best-trained, best-equipped soldiers to ever violate a sovereign nation’s territory. Among them was a four-legged warrior, most likely a German shepherd or Belgian Malinois, part of the US military’s growing stable of war dogs.

According to the New York Times, the US military currently has 600 dogs deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They detect explosives, find enemy fighters, and chase down those who try to flee. Dogs are far better than any human being or machine when it comes to quickly finding bombs, and with improvised explosive devices (IEDs) responsible for the majority of American casualties in the War on Terror, military leaders have turned to man’s best friend to mitigate the danger.

General David Petraeus, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, said he wanted more dogs in the military. “The capability they bring to the fight cannot be replicated by man or machine,” he said.

The four-legged warrior who accompanied the Navy SEALs as they raided Osama bin Laden’s hideout could have been used to sniff out explosives and booby traps. It could have also detected anyone hiding in the expansive home, or to run down and subdue anyone trying to make a run for it. Tech Sergeant Kelly A. Mylott told the New York Times that dogs are ideal for capturing someone trying to flee without having to shoot them. “When the dogs go after a suspect, they’re trained to bite and hold them,” she said. According to ABC News and the US Air Force, a German shepherd’s bite has a force of between 400 and 700 pounds.

Dogs can be particularly intimidating to people in the Middle East, where the animals are rarely kept as pets and are widely feared. That’s why the American interrogators used them to torture terrorism suspects and other prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. “Dogs can be an amazing psychological deterrent,” Sgt. Mylott told the Times.

The dogs are kitted out with waterproof tactical vests equipped with infrared and night-vision cameras that allow their handlers to see what they see via small video monitors from as far as 1,000 yards away. The vests have a speaker so that handlers can communicate to the dogs. They cost more than $20,000 each. According to the New York Times, Navy SEALs and their dogs train to parachute from planes and deploy from helicopters.

Despite all the high-tech gadgetry and protective vests, the dogs are targets and they do get killed in action. Dogs that run out ahead of patrols to sniff out the safety of the route are easy targets for enemy fighters. “It’s unfortunate, but the Taliban has wisened to the fact that these dogs are so successful at uncovering IEDs and so they are actually a target,” Rebecca Frankel, author of foreignpolicy.com’s “War Dog of the Week” feature, told ABC News. “If they have them out on a lead or let them go in front of the unit often times I do think they attract sniper fire earlier.”

In 2009, one of the Navy’s highest honors, the Silver Star, was posthumously awarded to Remco, a dog who was killed charging a hideout used by resistance fighters in Afghanistan.

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