TAMPA, Fla., Aug. 11, 2010 — The USS Peleliu will provide helicopter capabilities to aid Pakistan as the government there works to combat floods that are affecting 14 million people.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates announced the Peleliu is off Pakistan’s port city of Karachi and will provide airlift assistance. Six Army helicopters based in Afghanistan currently are providing airlift help.
Gates said the Peleliu “can provide significantly more” rotary wing support. He also said the USS Kearsarge — another helicopter landing ship — is headed to Pakistan to relieve the Peleliu.
President Barack Obama asked the national security team to “lean forward” in providing aid to the stricken nation, Gates said.
“The help we provide will be at a pace and in a way determined by the Pakistanis,” Gates said. “We will be working very closely with the Pakistani military.”
The secretary said the Defense Department is working to send in more capabilities. The Peleliu has the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and 19 helicopters aboard.
Defense officials also will work closely with the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development to hammer out the logistics chain. “There’s no point in having a lot of helicopters if there’s no supplies to deliver,” the secretary said.
Gates emphasized that the Pakistanis will govern the speed of distribution. “We want to be as helpful as we can be,” he said. “We don’t want to overstretch the capacity of the Pakistanis to absorb the help.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)