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American Forces Press Service

Pakistan Relief Effort to Top 1,000 U.S. Troops

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 24, 2005 More than 1,000 U.S. servicemembers will soon be assisting earthquake relief efforts in Pakistan, a senior U.S. officer told Pentagon reporters here today.

Navy Rear Adm. Michael A. LeFever, commander of the U.S. relief effort in Pakistan, said the number of American troops now providing humanitarian relief in Pakistan - about 560 - will be augmented in coming days by more medical personnel, helicopter aircrews, engineers and other personnel.

Parts of northern Pakistan were devastated by an Oct. 8 earthquake. Pakistan requested U.S. and international assistance to help it cope with the natural disaster. LeFever arrived in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Oct. 10 to head U.S. military relief efforts in the region.

He said U.S. and other contributing-nation aircrews have provided stricken Pakistanis "with much-needed helicopter airlift" of food, tents, blankets and medicines. The helicopters have proven particularly useful, he said, in evacuating injured Pakistanis from mountainous regions.

And more flights of U.S. C-130 cargo planes are slated, the admiral said, to airdrop more needed humanitarian supplies to remote areas.

The government of Pakistan recently requested more U.S. humanitarian assistance, LeFever said, which involves "clearing roads, and some medical help and, of course, the much needed helicopter airlift that we're providing." The medical help involves the setting up of U.S. military mobile surgical hospitals, he said.

To date, U.S. helicopters have delivered 1.8 million pounds of relief supplies and aid to the battered region, LeFever said. American military aircraft, he added, also have transported more than 2,500 injured Pakistanis.

The U.S. Army will send six more CH-47 Chinook helicopters to Pakistan over the next three days to help with airlifting supplies from Chaklala Air Base near Islamabad to remote, mountainous areas in the northeast portion of the country.

The added helicopters will join 12 other U.S. helicopters already working in Pakistan since Oct. 11: five Army Chinooks, three Army UH-60 Black Hawks, two Navy MH-53 Sea Stallions, and two Navy MH-60 Knighthawks, according to a U.S. Disaster Assistance Center-Pakistan news release.

The U.S. Navy's amphibious assault ship USS Tarawa, amphibious transport dock USS Cleveland, and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor are providing humanitarian support from the Pakistani seaport of Karachi, the admiral said.

Today, the Pearl Harbor arrived in Karachi for the second time this week, carrying 140 tons of food, blankets, mattresses and other supplies destined for the earthquake-devastated regions in Pakistan. The supplies were donated by Pakistanis living in the United Arab Emirates.

Those relief supplies will be "transferred into the hands of the Pakistani Army for rapid delivery to the most affected areas," said Mary Witt, the U.S. Consul General in Karachi.

Lefever said U.S. troops are in Pakistan "for the long haul" at the request of its government.

"We continue to assess on the ground and help our friends," LeFever said.

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