CLEVELAND, Aug. 27, 2010 — The U.S. military is taking “significant” precautions to ensure safety for its forces and U.S. aid workers providing flood relief in northwestern Pakistan, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.
The United States “certainly would hope that all of those who are providing aid in this very difficult set of circumstances would not be impeded,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters.
Mullen was here as part of a three-day “Conversation with the Country” tour across the Midwest. The trip is geared toward helping community and business leaders and the academic community step up to help military veterans hone their skills and life experience as they make the transition into civilian life. He met with business and community leaders in Chicago on Aug. 25 and in Detroit yesterday.
The chairman’s comments come a day after the U.S. State Department voiced concern for American volunteers in Pakistan. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. relief workers there are fearful of a Taliban or extremist reprisal on foreigners.
Mullen agreed, saying such an attack by militants wouldn’t be a surprise.
“I share the concern that was stated yesterday by the State Department,” he said. “I haven’t seen any indication that that’s happened yet. But the insurgents have no moral bounds, and that they might do something like that isn’t outside the realm of possibilities.”
Mullen lauded the U.S. effort there. More than 6,500 displaced Pakistanis have been moved to safety since efforts began Aug. 5. Also, nearly 2 million pounds of relief supplies have been delivered.
The U.S. military has devoted 19 helicopters and three cargo planes to flood relief efforts, and more helicopters were promised today. About 400 U.S. troops are providing relief.
An estimated 20 million people could be affected by the flooding, which has isolated much of Pakistan’s Swat Valley and Peshewar regions.
“The floods are obviously huge and tragic,” Mullen said. “The United States is making significant contributions.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)