ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Sept. 2, 2010 — Though relief efforts may help people in flood-ravaged Pakistan and the rest of the world see the United States in a more favorable light than they had before, the U.S. objective here simply is to help, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen is in Pakistan today to meet with government and military officials and to get a first-hand look at stricken areas and the relief effort with Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army’s chief of staff.
During the first travel leg of an overseas trip that has brought him to Germany, Iraq and Pakistan this week, Mullen said the relationship between the United States and Pakistan suffered for more than a decade. Though a strategic U.S.-Pakistani partnership has re-emerged, he added, it will take time for the United States to rebuild the Pakistani people’s trust, and the flood-relief effort can help in that regard.
“The backdrop of this is 12 years of no relationship and a massive gap of trust,” he said. “It’s just going to take us a while to rebuild it. However long you take to dig a hole, it’s probably going to take you that long to fill it up.”
Mullen noted that the perception of the United States among Indonesians improved as a result of the tsunami relief effort in 2004.
“The goal was to help,” he said. “The effect was that so many changed their minds about their feelings toward America. That’s not why we do it, but the possibility is there. I’m hopeful that many Pakistani citizens can see a different side of America than what is often portrayed.”
The standing of the United States among the Pakistani people isn’t very high, Mullen acknowledged, adding that he hopes the flood-relief effort helps to build good will. “With this relief and assistance,” he said, “I hope they will see – similar to the earthquake there in 2005 – that this is who we are.”
En route here last night, the chairman said he spoke earlier in the day with Dr. Rajiv Shah, administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, about Pakistan flood relief, “because we’re all trying to work this together.”
Mullen told reporters the flood waters have reached the Indian Ocean, so they’re no longer rising. As the waters recede, he added, the extent of the damage will become more evident. The long-term scope of the relief and recovery effort Pakistan will need remains to be seen, Mullen said, but the U.S. commitment to that effort is clear, and a significant, sustained commitment from the international community almost certainly will be required.
For now, the chairman added, the focus is on the near term. Additional U.S. helicopters and ships should arrive in about 10 days, he said. So far, he added, the United States has rescued more than 11,000 people, brought in more than 3 million pounds of relief supplies and provided Pakistan with about $150 million in aid.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)