The U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan is pushing back against last week's reports that the Taliban is training monkey soldiers for jihad. Those reports, sourced to an odd story in the Chinese government-run People's Daily newspaper, are probably not true. But in the wild world of military rumors, nothing is too outrageous to spread like wildfire among the troops.
But worry not: Jeff "Rumor Doctor" Schogol is on the case. The Stars and Stripes blogger was last seen knocking back rumors that the U.S. Air Force had decided to allow fanny packs. Schogol, who refers to himself as "the Doctor," investigates the veracity of the Taliban monkey stories:
The Rumor Doctor asked NATO officials whether these killer monkeys have yet been encountered on the battlefield in Afghanistan.
"We have absolutely nothing that leads us to believe that this tale could be even remotely based in reality," said NATO spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale.
Schogol also shows the People's Daily story to a primatologist, who backs up the Atlantic Wire's earlier reporting that any Taliban jihad monkeys would probably be rhesus:
"To my eye at least, it is a baboon, which lives in Africa," said Christopher Coe, director of the Harlow Primate Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. "The more common monkey that lives in that part of the world is a rhesus monkey. They live in India and can also be found in China. But this photo is not [of] a rhesus monkey. ... While you could train a monkey to shoot a gun, I certainly wouldn't want to be anywhere in the neighborhood after that. I rather doubt you could trust its aim," he said. "In addition, the noise would certainly scare most animals and make them stop."
Coe also points out that any Taliban monkey handlers would have to "bring along a large supply of bananas to keep up the morale of their monkey troops," which leads one to the obvious conclusion that the International Security Assistance Force should strictly ban bananas from Afghanistan immediately.
Update: See also Taiwan Produces Pixar-Like Video of Taliban Jihad Monkeys