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U.S. Aid Flights to Pakistan Not Dependent on U.N. Donations

31 October 2005

Military relief operations have been accelerated, Central Command says

Washington – U.S. military humanitarian flights to Pakistan are accelerating and will not be cut back regardless of whether additional donations to the United Nations relief effort are forthcoming.

According to an October 31 press release issued by the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), the United States has no plans “to diminish its support of its ally, Pakistan, in its hour of need” and hopes the international community will step forward with greatly increased relief effort commitments.  Various U.S. government officials have called on international donors to boost current efforts to help Pakistan. (See related article.)

The subject of reducing U.S. flights based on the level of donations first surfaced in the media, prompting a clarification by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad.

There are currently 21 U.S. military helicopters flying dozens of sorties daily to relief centers and villages throughout the region.  There also are plans to increase the number of helicopters assigned to this relief mission, according to CENTCOM.

In the three weeks since the 7.6-magnitude earthquake hit South Asia, U.S. helicopters have flown close to 800 sorties into quake-ravaged areas, delivering huge quantities of supplies and evacuating 3,000 individuals who were injured in the quake.

The United States has given $3.5 million dollars in support of the airlift by the World Food Programme, which is being run by the United Nations’ Humanitarian Air Service.

U.S. AIR, NAVAL RESOURCES REMAIN ACTIVELY ENGAGED IN RELIEF EFFORT

Four U.S. helicopters began flying in Pakistan two days after the October 8 earthquake that left 2.2 million people homeless.  Two days later, the number of U.S. helicopters had doubled and they were ferrying water, food and medicine into some of the hardest-hit areas of the country.

Air Force C-17 and C-130 heavy lift cargo aircraft have been hauling much-needed clothing, cargo vehicles and aircraft parts in response to official requests from Pakistan.  Air Force contractor flights also have been providing relief.

The Pakistani villages of Laij Copei and Batagram have received thousands of kilograms of supplies dropped from low-flying U.S. C-130s.

Air Force Staff Sergeant Mario Mendizabal, a loadmaster with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, was quoted in an October 30 CENTCOM release as saying: “If it’s hurricane relief, earthquake relief or tsunami relief, whatever you got for us, we can handle it.”

An October 29 CENTCOM release said the United States will overcome any challenges “presented by weather, terrain, and sheer magnitude of this tragedy” to support the Pakistani people “with technology, innovative planning and determination.”

The U.S. Marine Corps has set up a medical surgical company near Muzaffarabad, Pakistan.  In addition to an operating suite, it has a mobile lab, X-ray equipment, a pharmacy and cots for 60.  An October 28 CENTCOM release said U.S. military forces are moving swiftly to prevent additional lives from being lost, to mitigate human misery and to “perform life-saving medical treatment for those in dire need.”

Three U.S. Navy ships also have been offloading critical supplies in Karachi, Pakistan, in recent weeks.  The USS Cleveland delivered 280 tons of supplies during the last week of October, including light trucks and generators.  The delivery also included tents, cots and blankets from Egypt and food from France.

The Cleveland’s commanding officer, Captain Michael Chase, said the ship’s crew is very international, hailing from 26 nations and including 30 crewmembers who are not yet American citizens.

“Helping out is a big deal for us,” he said, “This is a human issue.”

Chase also said it provides a opportunity “for our military to really help people and it is very satisfying for the crew.”  The Cleveland’s sister ship, the USS Pearl Harbor, was the first U.S. naval ship into Karachi. It began delivering its supplies on October 16.  The USS Tarawa has also provided transport for supplies from donor nations.

In addition, a U.S. Navy Seabee construction battalion will meet a shipment of heavy equipment that is being flown from Kuwait to Karachi from the Coalition Forces Land Component Command.  

The Seabees will use the cranes, fuel tankers, road graders, dump trucks and other heavy equipment to clean up debris and push pieces of crumbled buildings out of the way and repair earthquake damaged roads. 

For more information on the relief effort, see U.S. Response to the Earthquake in South Asia.

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

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



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