K9 training with UNIFIL and LAF

A Lebanese Special Forces soldier (left) and his combat dog apprehend an “aggressor” during attack dog training.

A Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) service dog waits for explosive detection training. 

A UNIFIL French peacekeeper gives veterinary advice to a Lebanese Special Forces soldier for his service dog. 

A LAF combat dog sits down to indicate there is an explosive under the rock.

A LAF combat dog practices jumps with his Lebanese Special Forces trainer (right) and a UNIFIL French peacekeeper.

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28 Sep 2017

K9 training with UNIFIL and LAF

The Lebanese Special Forces soldier calls his combat dog to heel. “Key” the dog who is already growling at the “suspicious” man across the park, obediently responds. The soldier and his dog closely watch as the man makes threatening gestures and shouts aggressively. The dog tugs on his lead. The Lebanese soldier leans close to his animal’s ear, whispers a command, and the dog sprints across the park to attack. 

This is a scene from a recent “Attack Dog” training exercise between the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) personnel and canine experts from UNIFIL’s French-led Force Commander’s Reserve (FCR). As the dog pounces on the man and sinks his sharp teeth into the protective sleeve of the trainer’s bite suit, FCR’s Sergeant Arnaud explains: “In the army, dogs are non-lethal weapons that enable us not to cause any serious injuries or fatalities. The individual will be injured, of course, but it will not be as critical as a gunshot wound.”

The Lebanese special forces soldiers and their service dogs are spending a full week living and training with the UNIFIL French Contingent’s canine unit on the UNIFIL base near Deir Keifa, south Lebanon. The weeklong joint training also includes explosive dog training and attack training. They will also cover additional subjects such as dog fitness and veterinary care. 

First Lieutenant Romain, who leads the coordination of the French peacekeepers’ joint trainings with LAF, contextualizes the training, “We are fortunate, here in Deir Kifa, to have an active military dog kennel, qualified and ready to host joint trainings for the benefit of the LAF. The aim is also to exchange expertise between our two armies. Our military dog unit is a unit composed of specialists training with the best LAF dog handlers. They come from special LAF units who support the combat units in the frontline, using dogs to search for explosive in vehicles or to neutralize individuals. Dogs are a valuable asset of the Lebanese army because of their reliability, and we are trying to improve it.”

UNIFIL peacekeepers carry out about 450 activities per day within the Mission’s area of operations between the Litani River and the Blue Line in south Lebanon. Many of these activities seek to enhance the capabilities of Lebanese state institutions, in particular the LAF. The UN Security Council extended the mandate of UNIFIL for one more year by adopting resolution 2373 last month, and urged further international support for the LAF, in response to the security body’s capabilities development plan.

UNIFIL has around 10,500 peacekeepers coming from 41 troop contributing countries. The Mission maintains an intensive level of operational and other activities – the “Attack Dog” training being one of them. These amount to approximately 13,500 activities per month, day and night, in UNIFIL’s area of operations. About 17 per cent of such activities are carried out jointly with the LAF. UNIFIL is also complemented by a seven-vessel Maritime Task Force.

Article: Aoibheann O’Sullivan, Tilak Pokharel
Video camera: Mohamad Hamze, Aoibheann O’Sullivan
Video Edit: Aoibheann O’Sullivan, Suzane Badereddine, 1st Lt Jonathan Naegele
Stills: Pascual Gorriz