Cheney, Rumsfeld Praise Military Disaster Support in Pakistan
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2005 Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld both made separate surprise visits to U.S. forces in Pakistan to thank them for their ongoing disaster support in that earthquake-devastated area.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Michael Lefever, left, commander of Disaster Assistance Center Pakistan, speaks to Vice President Dick Cheney at the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, Dec. 20. Photo by Airman 1st Class Barry Loo, USAF
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Cheney arrived in Pakistan Dec. 20 and toured the 212th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital in Muzaffarabad, praising the tremendous response U.S. forces continue to provide since a magnitude 7.6 earthquake hit on Oct. 8.
"I'm ... tremendously impressed with what we've been able to do with our MASH units and with U.S. forces able to move quickly into the area," the vice president said, calling the overall operation "a remarkable success."
"We've been here within 48 hours (of the earthquake) and we've been here ever since," he said. "It's a measure of the enormous capability that the U.S. military is able to mount a humanitarian operation like this on a moment's notice."
Rumsfeld arrived in the region today, meeting with troops from the MASH in Muzaffarabad and the 3rd Medical Battalion, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force, in Shinkiari. The secretary also met with CH-47 Chinook helicopter crews at Qasim Air Base, near Islamabad, who have ferried much of the relief supplies to earthquake survivors.
Cheney met with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf Dec. 20, expressing condolences on behalf of the United States for Pakistan's loss.
Musharaff thanked the vice president for both its financial assistance and on-the-ground support, including helicopter and ship operations. "I don't think we could have managed the relief operation without your ships," he said. "They have been a main part of the relief operation."
The United States has pledged $510 million in earthquake relief and reconstruction efforts to help the people of Pakistan and to support Pakistani government relief efforts, Air Force Maj. Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman, told the American Forces Press Service.
This includes $300 million in humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance, $110 million in military support for relief operations and at least $100 million anticipated from U.S. private contributions.
The U.S. military has been on the ground since Oct. 10, Vician said. At the peak of initial relief efforts, more than 1,200 personnel and 24 helicopters provided vital transportation, logistics and medical and engineering support in the affected areas, he said.
U.S. help to Pakistan has focused initially on the immediate needs of coordinating and supplying shelter, relief supplies, medical care, water, sanitation and logistics, particularly with the approach of winter.
The United States has delivered more than 45,000 blankets, 1,570 winterized tents and 6,150 rolls of plastic sheeting that helped winterize shelter for almost 31,000 families, Vician said.
Since arriving in Pakistan, the U.S. military has flown more than 2,700 helicopter flights, delivering more than 12 million pounds of relief supplies, provided urgent medical care to almost 14,000 Pakistanis and supplied critical engineering support, he said.
The United States has also provided 10 strategic airlift sorties as part of NATO earthquake relief operations in Pakistan. The NATO operation, which has delivered more than 2,700 tons of relief supplies, is scheduled to last about 90 days.
Vician reiterated President Bush's and Rumsfeld's commitment that the U.S. military will continue to support specific Pakistani government requests for help until these operations can be transitioned to the Pakistani government, U.S. civilian disaster response managers, the United Nations, nongovernmental organizations and other international support organizations.