U.S. Relief Continues in Pakistan

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)

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