WASHINGTON, Aug. 17, 2010 — U.S. military forces rescued 375 displaced Pakistanis yesterday, Pentagon officials said today, continuing their humanitarian assistance in wake of the monsoon floods that have isolated much of the Swat Valley and Peshawar regions in northwestern Pakistan.
Since Aug. 5, U.S. military aviation assets and personnel have rescued 3,978 flood victims and transported more than 500,000 pounds of food and relief supplies, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
“Everything that we’re doing is at the request of the Pakistani government,” he said. “So everything that we’re providing, where we’re taking it to, who we’re delivering it to, … anything we’re providing is specifically at the request of the Pakistani government.”
The Defense Department has spent about $300,000 a day on flight operations. The total operational cost so far is around $2.5 million, Whitman said, noting that number is only a “small part of the federal government expenditure.”
The State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, as well as the United Nations, are actively engaged in relief efforts there, he explained.
“The president has obviously committed a robust government effort here, and that translates into helicopters for [the military], rescue operations, as well as flying in humanitarian relief supplies,” Whitman said.
U.S. aviation assets include 11 helicopters and three cargo planes, he said. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates last week ordered a contingent of 19 U.S. helicopters to Pakistan. Whitman could not say when the remaining helicopters would arrive.
More U.S. military support may be needed, Whitman said.
“I don’t believe we’ve gotten to the point where we can estimate the totality of the support that’s needed,” he said. “It’s obviously a very devastating flood. The U.N., as well as Pakistani authorities, have called in a broad international assistance.
“It doesn’t look like the situation is getting any better,” he continued. “It’s a dire situation, and just by the number of rescues the U.S. military has done with the limited aviation assets on the ground with 11 helicopters, you can see people’s lives are being saved every day by having some of these capabilities there.”
Whitman said the Pentagon is addressing the situation “one day at a time.”
“It’s a dynamic situation with respect to the support being provided to Pakistan,” Whitman said. “The U.S. is a good ally and friend to Pakistan and wants to be supportive, and that’s why we have the resources we do there.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)