Pakistan — U.S. Focuses on Rescue, Flood Relief in Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Aug. 19, 2010 — Beyond the mind-bog­gling per­son­al toll of Pakistan’s mon­soon floods – with 20 mil­lion peo­ple affect­ed and 4 mil­lion made home­less – there’s also a strate­gic impact, the U.S. spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Afghanistan and Pak­istan said today.

“We’re not obliv­i­ous to the polit­i­cal and secu­ri­ty impli­ca­tions of this,” U.S. Ambas­sador Richard C. Hol­brooke acknowl­edged dur­ing an inter­view on ABC’s “Good Morn­ing Amer­i­ca.” “Pak­istan is not just anoth­er coun­try that’s been ham­mered by a tragedy,” Hol­brooke said. “It is at the epi­cen­ter of glob­al ter­ror­ism. It is strate­gi­cal­ly crit­i­cal. It lies between Afghanistan and India. What more can you say?”

Pak­istani For­eign Min­is­ter Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in New York to appeal to the Unit­ed Nations for more inter­na­tion­al help, not­ed at a forum today that the floods have come at a par­tic­u­lar­ly crit­i­cal time.

“At a time when … the demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly elect­ed gov­ern­ment in Pak­istan had suc­ceed­ed in build­ing a con­sen­sus in Pak­istan against extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism, [and] when many lives were laid for a cause — to achieve sta­bil­i­ty and peace in Afghanistan — … we’ve been struck by this nation­al calami­ty,” Qureshi said at the Asia Soci­ety-spon­sored event. Qureshi expressed the wide­ly shared belief that 2010 is “the most crit­i­cal year” in deter­min­ing the suc­cess of the Afghanistan strat­e­gy as he appealed to the world com­mu­ni­ty to help his coun­try deal with severe mon­soon flood­ing that have left one-fifth of it under water.

“We will use all our resources” to address Pakistan’s imme­di­ate and long-term needs cre­at­ed by the floods, Quereshi said at the ses­sion, where Hol­brooke, U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment Admin­is­tra­tor Rajiv Shah and inter­na­tion­al relief orga­ni­za­tion lead­ers dis­cussed the cri­sis.

“But frankly, it is beyond just nation­al resources,” he said. “We do need inter­na­tion­al assis­tance, and we need inter­na­tion­al assis­tance now.”

The Unit­ed States is “focused sole­ly on the emer­gency res­cue and relief mis­sion” in Pak­istan, Hol­brooke empha­sized today. The Unit­ed States, he added, also is “very vis­i­bly lead­ing the inter­na­tion­al effort” to assist Pak­istan

It’s liv­ing up to the cre­do that Hol­brooke said he, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton and Shah share in dri­ving the U.S. “whole of gov­ern­ment” response.

“We want to be the first, with the most assis­tance,” Hol­brooke said. “And we have.”

The U.S. gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted $90 mil­lion in relief aid to date, and Clin­ton is expect­ed to pledge more dur­ing a spe­cial ses­sion of the U.N. Gen­er­al Assem­bly lat­er today. Clin­ton also announced today the estab­lish­ment of the Pak­istan Relief Fund, which the State Depart­ment will admin­is­ter for pri­vate cit­i­zens to con­tribute to the relief effort. Mean­while, Hol­brooke not­ed that the Unit­ed States has been the only coun­try so far to get heli­copters into Pak­istan. Fif­teen U.S. mil­i­tary heli­copters are now in Pak­istan – part of the con­tin­gent of 19 that Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates ordered there last week to res­cue strand­ed peo­ple, deliv­er relief sup­plies and pro­vide oth­er air trans­port.

Today alone, U.S. mil­i­tary heli­copter crews res­cued 330 peo­ple and trans­port­ed 77,560 pounds of relief sup­plies, offi­cials at the U.S. Embassy in Islam­abad report­ed. Since Aug. 5, U.S. mil­i­tary heli­copter crews have res­cued 4,924 peo­ple and trans­port­ed 636,068 pounds of relief sup­plies, offi­cials report­ed.

Also today, three Air Force C-130 car­go air­craft based in Afghanistan sup­port­ing the mis­sion trans­port­ed 75,490 pounds of food and relief sup­plies, offi­cials said.

“The Pak­istani mil­i­tary and [Pak­istani Army Chief of Staff] Gen. [Ash­faq Parvez] Kayani called us and asked us for help,” Hol­brooke told ABC this morn­ing. “We have Amer­i­can heli­copter crews fly­ing in an area they pre­vi­ous­ly weren’t mov­ing in,” refer­ring to the fed­er­al­ly admin­is­tered trib­al areas “where the Tal­iban and al-Qai­da hang out.”

Speak­ing to Pakistan’s Dawn TV in New York today, Clin­ton con­demned extrem­ists who cap­i­tal­ize on the cri­sis. “Why are the ter­ror­ists tar­get­ing for assas­si­na­tion and bomb­ing Pak­ista­nis at a moment of great nat­ur­al dis­tress? What is wrong with these peo­ple? Have they no shame? Have they no con­science?” she asked.

“While the peo­ple of Pak­istan are lit­er­al­ly fight­ing for their lives against the effects of this flood, the ter­ror­ists seem not to care,” Clin­ton con­tin­ued.

Clin­ton called on the Pak­istani mil­i­tary to “do every­thing in its pow­er” to pro­tect their country’s cit­i­zens and prop­er­ty. “It’s unfor­tu­nate that they are fight­ing an ene­my that is so uncar­ing about the peo­ple of your coun­try,” she said.

Some 20 mil­lion peo­ple have been affect­ed by the floods – more than dur­ing the 2004 tsuna­mi, the 2005 Pak­istan earth­quake and this year’s Haiti earth­quake com­bined. An esti­mat­ed 4 mil­lion Pak­ista­nis have been left home­less.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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