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06 January 2005

Powell Praises International Response to Tsunami Crisis

Secretary of state cites excellent attendance at Jakarta conference

Secretary of State Colin Powell praised the international response to the tsunami crisis after attending the January 6 leaders' conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, to raise and coordinate aid for the victims.

Speaking to the press shortly after the conclusion of the meetings, Powell said: "I think that we were able to bring the international community together in a more effective way to coordinate our efforts and also to tee up the donors' conference that will be taking place on the 11th [of January] in Geneva under U.N. auspices."

He noted that there was consensus and commitment to put in place a regional warning system, adding that the United States plans to participate by contributing technical ability and knowledge as well as financial resources.

When asked about pledges of aid -- now reaching nearly $5 billion -- that are not always delivered, Powell responded:  "I think what we saw today here was a firm commitment of a number of billions of dollars … that will be drawn upon by demands."

As for the U.S. pledge, Powell said:  "When it says $350 million it means $350 million and when we say we'll go for more if we need more that's what we'll do."

Some nations will make direct contributions to a specific nation in need, the secretary said.  Others will contribute to the United Nations, which will allocate the money received to its organizations directly involved in supplying relief.  The United Nations, he said, "will be playing a lead, not the only lead role, but a lead role in coordinating the international efforts … .  But there will be a lot of bilateral action going on between specific countries that have unique capability or unique resources to provide to a specific country in need."

In Indonesia, the United States is looking for ways to provide spare parts to the C-130 H aircraft that can deliver humanitarian relief to tsunami-devastated areas, Powell said. In Banda Aceh, which was hard-hit by the disaster, efforts are in high gear to improve air traffic control for incoming supply planes.  The United States also is trying to provide more helicopters for relief efforts in the region until roads can be restored for truck traffic, he said.

The secretary urged the Indonesian government and the U.N. World Health Organization to undertake a serious immunization program very soon against measles and other diseases that could strike vulnerable children who might be in weakened conditions.

For additional information, go to “U.S. Response to Tsunami and Earthquake in Asia at: http://usinfo.state.gov/sa/south_asia/tsunamis.html.

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. Department of State

Office of the Spokesman

(Jakarta, Indonesia)

January 6, 2005

REMARKS TO THE PRESS

REMARKS TO THE TRAVELING PRESS

BY SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL

Press Filing Center

Jakarta, Indonesia

January 6, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL:  We had a very good conference today and I think it was very well organized and well chaired by President Yudhoyono who spent the whole day there. It's a tribute to his commitment to making sure that the conference went well.  And there was excellent attendance by leaders from the region and leaders from elsewhere in the world: the European Union, the United States, of course.  And I think that we were able to bring the international community together in a more effective way to coordinate our efforts and also to tee up the donors' conference that will be taking place on the 11th in Geneva under U.N. auspices. And all of the U.N. agencies were represented here today: the World Food Program, Carol Bellamy of UNICEF, and a number of others.

You saw the statement that was put out at the end of the day which discussed, described what we did, and the other important aspect of the statement, I think you'll see when you read it, was a commitment to go for a regional warning system.  I think that will be taking life and we'll participate not only with our technical ability and knowledge, but with financial resources as we get further down the road.

With that I'll take your questions because you've been following all of this in the course of the day. Barbara?

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, extraordinary sums of money have been pledged, unprecedented sums. Are you at all confident that this money actually will be forthcoming from the United States and from other countries, or is this like so many conferences where people pledged money and it doesn't come in?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I've heard and I've read this argument that people pledge money and they don't do it, and I've even heard it said about the United States that we didn't do what we said we'd do in Bam last year. It's a false press report. We said we'd contribute $10 million and we spent the $10 million dollars. Other nations may not have.

With this kind of a conference you do get pledges. Some of the pledges are grants, which is, you know, one kind of a pledge, and some of it is concessionary loans, which is essentially a loan. Now, you also, as one of my colleagues, I think it was my Canadian colleague, said today that the actual funds spent should be "demand-driven" not "donation-driven." So, they ought to go to real needs and real demands.

I think what we saw today here was a firm commitment of a number of billions of dollars, and we're still adding it up and it looks like it's starting to approach $4 or 5 billion and that will be drawn upon by demands. For example, the United States has put forward $350 million to this point, but of that $350 million there's only been a demand so far for roughly only a little over 40. And so we will continue responding to legitimate demands until 350 is reached and if more money is needed at that time then the president will take it under consideration and discuss it with the Congress to see if more money should be made available.

And so, this will play out over time and I can only speak for the United States and tell you that the United States when it says $350 million it means $350 million and when we say we'll go for more if we need more that's what we'll do. I can't speak for other nations.

Somebody is violating a major law about the phones.

(Laughter).

Yeah.

QUESTION: One of the issues that was discussed was who's going to lead the effort, one possibility was the U.N.  Can you specifically talk about what the U.N. will do and what the nations will do?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, it's a combination. Some nations will make direct contributions, maybe financial contributions, or in-kind contributions, to a specific nation in need. For example, the Korean prime minister today was talking about how Korean companies who are doing work in Indonesia might be able to use their assets and resources for clearing operations, Korean construction companies that are here.  Would that be part of the Korean contribution? We can see as that unfolds, but the flash appeal that the Secretary General made today, if you look at the details of that, it reflects the U.N. organizations and the principal non-governmental organizations that already have a need. And it's the U.N. that will coordinate the money coming in and going to those organizations.

We formed the core group last week and we've folded it into the overall U.N. operation today. We did it last week because we felt there was an immediate need while we were getting ourselves organized for this unprecedented crisis and the unprecedented response to the crisis to create this core group. We got it up, got it running, got it started and it helped us coordinate our efforts regionally, but now I think things are up and running to the point where we can work within the U.N. communities.

The specific answer to your question, I think that the U.N. will be playing a lead, not the only lead role, but a lead role in coordinating the international efforts because that's their role.  But there will be a lot of bilateral action going on between specific countries who have unique capability or unique resources to provide to a specific country in need.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, can we go back to money for a second? You've been very careful in your past prepared remarks and the actual remarks and now what you've just said, you've said that if there's more money needed the President will take a look at it and talk to Congress. Do you really think 350 is, you really think the needs are going to eventually...

SECRETARY POWELL:  I don't know and you don't know. None of us know. I have been saying that if more money was needed we would consider that and add more money since day one. From that first Monday when we put the 15 billion, 15 million down I made the point that we would examine what more was needed. The next day when we added 20 million more I made the point again that this was just the beginning.  And the reason I was careful is because we didn't know what the need was at that time.  The need has gone up considerably and there are a lot of demands out there, but I cannot tell you whether the U.S. contribution of $350 million is enough of a contribution toward that overall requirement and when you consider what other nations have given, whether it will have to go higher or not.

So I think it's, frankly, prudent to be careful with respect to these numbers. These are not insignificant numbers. And, frankly, these are matters that you have to discuss with OMB and the President and then have to have consultations with Congress, who ultimately will have to provide the money.

An important point that came up in the course of the day was, let's make sure that in this unprecedented response to this crisis, let's not take from other accounts which are serving people who are in equally desperate need, whether it's in the DRC or Liberia or somewhere else in the world, or food aid for Ethiopia or whatever we might be doing in Eritrea.  If you take from those accounts you have to replenish them because these are people in need as well. And so, ultimately, supplemental funding will be required from the Congress. We have to make sure that we can make a case to the American people that this is the amount that is needed as we understand it and see it, and that's why you should replenish the account.

And so I think $350 million was more than generous. It came as we scaled up in response to the scaling up of the crisis. You've heard me say this before, but in the first 24 hours, after the first 24 hours of this event, people were still talking about casualties being in the hundreds or low thousands before they got a chance to go to Aceh and see what had happened and then it rapidly rose by the tens of thousands almost per hour, until we seemed to have stabilized somewhere around 150 odd thousand now.

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I'm sorry. Who haven't I got yet? Glenn have you got one?

QUESTION:  Yeah, no, I haven't.

SECRETARY POWELL: Okay.  Go ahead, Glenn.

QUESTION:  Indonesian officials say that the U.S. has agreed to provide spare parts for U.S. military aircraft. What assurances do you have that they're not going to use this equipment against the rebels, which, obviously, these firefights are still continuing?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, we're looking at a way of rapidly providing some spare parts for a particular class of aircraft, C-130 H models, because they're desperately needed to provide humanitarian relief. The government of Indonesia, I think, is anxious to have a better relationship with the United States with respect to the provision of parts, and so I hope, if we can get this taken care of, the government of Indonesia will use the planes for the intended purpose of bringing them back into operating condition and, in order to keep that relationship flourishing would not use them in a way not intended, i.e. going after the GMA, GAM.

QUESTION: But that's our whole...we don't have a commitment?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, we have talked to the Indonesians about it. A C-130, once you get it up and flying, it tends to be a fungible commodity, and they can carry lots of things.  But it is not a war plane.

QUESTION: But they, they used it last year, I think, to drop the troops down there, in Aceh.

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, I can't...I can't get too far into this because we're still working it out.  But the nature of the humanitarian crisis is so great and the need for C-130s is so great that we cannot have a fleet of 24 C-130s unable to operate because they're...only seven of them can really fly. And so, it seemed to me that the humanitarian need that you saw yesterday trumps, right now, the reservations we have. And we're doing it in a way that still puts controls on the remaining aircraft. Only a few additional aircraft will be made serviceable as a result of the arrangements I'm working on now, maybe five more.

QUESTION:  Are those the current figures, the fleet and those...

SECRETARY POWELL:  I'm within one or two, my memory not being what it used to be, but it's something like 24 aircraft, of which only seven are operational to the best of my knowledge.  And we're trying to get five more of the C-130 H models operational.

Yup.

QUESTION:   If I could, Mr. Secretary, ask a question that's, the first part of the question is substance, the second part is more atmospherics. Is there any one or two things that you've called home and said, "We need to change this," based on what you've seen and heard? "We need to fix this immediately or change this immediately or adjust this?"--the substance part.

And then the atmospherics, at other big, international meetings over the last year or two, not, of course, in this context, but you've been the guy who represents the Iraq policy that half the people...half the room or three-quarters of the room is mad about or they're mad at the United States about this, that, or the other thing.  Any difference, sort of in the atmospherics?

SECRETARY POWELL:  In the course of the day I've had a number of bilateral meetings and pull-aside meetings and we have not had one single discussion about Iraq. This has been, this tsunami. People understand that we have got a major humanitarian challenge and reconstruction challenge here. And every government that I have spoken to in the region, whether it's the Maldives, or Sri Lanka, or Indonesia, or Malaysia, or Thailand, has been very appreciative of the support that America is providing, that the commitment that the President has made to the relief effort and that's really what we have been focusing on.

With respect to what I have sent back, I think we have a pretty good idea what we're doing. I made the case that anything we can do to increase the number of helicopters in the region would be very, very useful. And there may be some other suggestions that I have that I have not yet made, so I will not yet make public.

(Laughter.)

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, it's one thing to say that the U.N. is going to be the umbrella group, but in terms of on the ground, who's going to play the traffic cop with all the different militaries that are going to get involved, all the different NGOs?  This has been a big failing with the problem with Bam.  Are you satisfied that there's a mechanism to effectively say who's going to do what, where?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I just met with the Secretary General today, and we talked about this. I think the American commander at Utapao, General Blackman, Rusty Blackman, will continue to play an important role in coordinating our effort, as well as the effort of other militaries that might come on the scene. And I think as this effort grows, we will start to see more civilian coordination efforts, perhaps at Utapao, as well.

And with the Secretary General today, we talked about the need for the U.N. agencies if they're going to play that coordinating role to get on the ground and start playing it.  I expect that at Banda Aceh, for example.  We will see much greater U.N. presence in the next several days as they are now able to gear themselves up and get in there.

And one of the issues we worked on over the last 24 hours, which I think we touched on yesterday, has to deal with the air traffic control at Banda Aceh, so that you get more throughput. And they worked late into the night, the Indonesians took the discussion we had yesterday seriously, and they worked late in the night with Australians and others to improve air traffic control.  And more air traffic controllers and more air traffic control capability will be put into Banda Aceh.

And so, it's not as clean as a pure military solution of the kind I used to work on in my previous incarnation, but I think it's coming together. And I don't think we'll see the kinds of problems we've seen in other places.

MR. BOUCHER: Can we do one more, two more, maybe?

QUESTION:  Mr. Secretary, a U.N. official was quoted as saying, there was, actually the U.N., the World Health Organization's put out a warning that the disease and everything else that results could, if not checked, very immediately even double the death toll region-wide. Are you...is that, do you share that concern, that level of concern, are you getting indications whether it's from State Department intelligence, whatever kind of reports that suggest that that actually is the level of desperation out there? Or is it not quite that bad?

SECRETARY POWELL:  It's not my...certainly it's not my area of expertise, but what I have seen so far suggests that that is a potential risk, but we have not yet seen sweeping infectious disease problems. You know, we don't see cholera sweeping through anywhere yet, or, or something like that.  But, it is a matter of concern and we just had, in the conversation we just had with the Secretary General, Administrator Natsios made the point that one of the things we have to focus on here in Indonesia and up in Banda Aceh over the next weeks and months is an immunization program, because there's a low inoculation rate in Banda Aceh for a variety of reasons.  And it's important now for the government and U.N. agencies, WHO, to undertake a serious inoculation program, immunization program, because what you don't what to do is to see measles get started for example, with vulnerable children who may be in weakened conditions and more susceptible to measles infection and not able to fight it off as well as a healthy child might.

So, I haven't seen that happen yet. I just haven't. And nor was the WHO fellow saying it's happening, but it is a concern and it is a risk we want to deal with now before it becomes a problem.

MR. BOUCHER:  This will be the last question, to Sally.

QUESTION:  Beyond the C-130s, were there any other specific requests that you got from the Indonesian government, about what they were looking for?

SECRETARY POWELL:  No. That's the only issue that I discussed with the President and with the other ministers.  We didn't get into the other issues. There are still very, very precise laws under which the State Department operates with respect to provision of military equipment and our military-to-military relationship. And the only reason that we dealt with this particular item was because of the overwhelming humanitarian problem that we're facing here and the need for more C-130 capability. And you saw it yourself yesterday.

C-130s are the workhorse for this, to get material, medical care, shelter, everything else needed. As we flew around yesterday, I hope you noticed all the cut roads and bridges that were gone. It's going to take a while to reconstruct the ground infrastructure system. And until that happens it's going to C-130s and then retail distribution by helicopters and then, slowly, but surely, back to trucks, which are the efficient way to do this.

Okay?

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you, there.

SECRETARY POWELL:  You'll get numbers about the casualty, the tracking, the people we're tracking, State Department will be issuing those every day. And you know the latest numbers, I think. Numbers coming down, yes.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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