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21 January 2005

Defense Department Report, January 21: Tsunami Relief, Detainees

Sixty days seen as limit of major U.S. military role in relief effort


The U.S. commander in the Pacific region says 60 days is long enough to keep military personnel and resources at current levels to help the countries devastated by the December 26, 2004, earthquake and tsunami.

Admiral Thomas Fargo, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, told media in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, that 60 days is "probably a pretty good benchmark" for withdrawing military units from the tsunami-affected region.  He bases that estimate on past efforts, specifically the 1991 relief effort in Bangladesh.

"That's not to say that we won't contribute unique capabilities as requested by the host nation past that point," Fargo said.  "We certainly will."

There are currently 11,600 military personnel providing relief support, as well as 15 Navy ships (plus two more en route), 27 airplanes and 36 helicopters, according to a Pacific Command fact sheet.  To date, a total of 2,158 air missions have been flown; 18.1 million pounds of relief supplies and equipment have been delivered; and 1,156 patients have received medical treatment.

Fargo said U.S. military support will transition to "host nation and international, professional relief organizations, many of which are with the U.N."  This will happen, he said, when the affected nations themselves and international relief organizations can "move beyond immediate relief … into rehabilitation and reconstruction."  Professional relief organizations perform such work more efficiently than the military, he said.

"I might add that we have an ongoing theater security cooperation program where we work with these nations every week, month and year," Fargo added.  "Our support will probably entail 'enhanced theater security cooperation.'  That's probably a superb mechanism to provide this support," he said.


The Pentagon said the cases of 87 more detainees held at a detention center at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba have been reviewed, and all but one were found to be properly classified as enemy combatants.

In a statement released January 19, the Pentagon said 550 prisoner reviews have been completed since the end of July 2004, 330 of which have been reviewed further by Rear Admiral James McGarrah, who is in charge of the review process.  Of those 330, three have been determined no longer to be enemy combatants.  The statement notes that some risk is involved in the process, because as many as a dozen transferred prisoners have subsequently returned to combat against U.S. and coalition forces.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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