Stakeout Following Meetings at U.S. Central Command
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: This is General Ikram from the Pakistan Army. He is a liaison, is that the word?
GENERAL ABIZAID: Senior National Representative of Pakistan.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: On the Coalition here.
PRESS: General, Pakistan's in a pretty bad way. How are you all helping?
GENERAL ABIZAID: We're helping Pakistan in an important way by providing an aviation task force. The aviation task force arrived from Afghanistan yesterday. It has a total of eight helicopters in it. We're bringing more helicopters in. Some of them are coming from within the theater and some are coming from the United States, and in the course of the next couple of weeks you'll see this aviation task force not only build up with American capacity but also bring in some international capacity. We expect it to get around 40 heavy lift helicopters or so. But again you never know the exact numbers, but that's about what we would expect.
We today had a very good day in Pakistan. We're, of course, in support of the Pakistani government as you know. We flew about 50 sorties today. We take our instructions from the Disaster coordination Centers there inside of Pakistan. We provide heavy lift to the Pakistani Army that's doing an awful lot of good work out there. It is a big disaster, and it is of sufficient size that it requires a true international effort to help the Pakistanis and we're doing our part in that.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: One aspect of it is that the weather's not been good, and winter is approaching and the situational awareness is still imperfect. The roads and bridges and passes have been damaged in Pakistan and as a result there have been very very few flights that have been able to get the kind of information that would enable the Pakistan government to have a really clear view of the magnitude of the problem and the kinds of assets and capabilities that would be needed. So I would anticipate that you'd see it evolve in the days ahead as the weather improves and as more information is available.
GENERAL ABIZAID: It's a long term problem that we have. There are a lot of people homeless. Certainly there's the immediate relief needs that we're helping with now. Then there will be a long-term effort that's going to be necessary with regard to both humanitarian concerns, blankets, tentage, et cetera. The Pakistan government has asked us for --
GENERAL IKRAM: I happen to be from that area where the earthquake struck and the first problem we had was reaching those people. The roads [inaudible], passes are closed, and at that [inaudible] the U.S. government and [inaudible]. Today I am here to extend my gratitude to these people and to the government of the United States for providing us immediate relief. [Inaudible] already there, and there are many more which are on the way. [Inaudible] help us, [inaudible] people. And as the General has said, [inaudible] because so far the estimations we are having, that [inaudible] biggest towns and cities. When we are [inaudible] much more serious.
PRESS: General Abizaid, can you just say what will likely be, and Secretary Rumsfeld, will likely be the total number of Americans on the ground if you meet all the capabilities requested.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think probably relatively few. What they need are blankets and tents and medicines and medical facilities that can be put in. They have a lot of doctors and they have a lot of manpower. Probably because of the fact that there are so many people helping, the airports are quite full. General Abizaid pointed out some of the helicopters we're bringing in, we're going to take apart, fly into other places, put them together, and then take them in so that all of that type of thing that would require a lot of manpower and a lot of space would be done outside of Pakistan rather than inside of Pakistan.
GENERAL ABIZAID: If I could add to the Secretary's comment on this, it's a very interesting point that four Afghan helicopters, MI-17s, have come over from Afghanistan. They're embedded in our aviation task force so that we have all eight helicopters plus the additional four Afghan helicopters that are helping.
But while the Afghan government and the Pakistani government and the U.S. government are helping people as much as we possibly can in this region, we had al-Qaida and the Taliban conduct a suicide attack in Kandahar killing a bunch of innocent people the other day.
So if there's anything that demonstrates to people the difference between what we stand for and what they stand for, it ought to be pretty apparent to them what it is.
PRESS: What do you think the chances are [inaudible]
PRESS: -- U.S. troops, scores of troops --
GENERAL ABIZAID: It's going to go up and down.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: We're going to try to keep it down because of the crowding at these centers, these locations, these hubs that are being used by people from all over the world, but particularly by the Pakistanis.
PRESS: General, isn't it difficult for these heavy lift helicopters especially to operate not only in bad weather but at 14,000 feet in these mountains where the air is thinner? Is there --
GENERAL ABIZAID: Look, operating in this part of the world as
the Brigadier certainly knows, is dangerous. The mountains are high, the weather is bad, the conditions are difficult. But we've been doing it in Afghanistan. There's no better trained or equipped people to do it than the people that are there now. They've been doing it in Afghanistan in military operations and they'll do it in relief operations in Pakistan. We'll do what we can to help and that's what we're there for, is to help.
SECRETARY RUMSFELD: General, anything else you want to say?
GENERAL IKRAM: One of the things I would like to say here is the people there they need the help and with every passing day and the more help they have [inaudible] together because after the tsunami was felt, wherever American aid went public opinion changed. And this is one occasion where you can change public opinion of the Pakistanis.
PRESS: Thank you very much.