United States Department of Defense United States Department of Defense

News Transcript

Press Operations Bookmark and Share

Transcript


DOD News Briefing with Brig. Gen. Nagata via Teleconference from Pakistan

Presenters: Deputy Commander, Office of the Defense Representative-Pakistan Brig. Gen. Michael Nagata
August 25, 2010

                COL. LAPAN:  Good morning, everyone, and good evening in Pakistan.  I’d like to welcome to the Pentagon briefing room Brigadier General Michael Nagata, the deputy commander of the Office of the Defense Representative - Pakistan.

                General Nagata assumed his duties in Pakistan in June 2009, approximately 15 months ago.  This is his first time joining us in this format, and he joins us today from Pakistan’s Ghazi Air Base, near Tarbela in northern Pakistan.  He is here to provide an update on U.S. military helicopter and airlift support to flood-relief efforts in Pakistan.  General Nagata will make some brief opening comments, and then he will take your questions.  And with that, sir, I’ll turn it over to you.

                GEN. NAGATA:  Thanks very much for the introduction.  As mentioned, I’m Mike Nagata.  I’m the deputy commander of what we call the Office of the Defense Representative to Pakistan.  And for the last three weeks, I’ve been responsible for the U.S. military aviation efforts emanating from Ghazi Air Base here in northern Pakistan.

                Before moving to questions, I thought I’d provide a brief overview of the operations we’ve been conducting here and the nature of our partnership with Pakistani military units; specifically, army aviation elements.  Our focus, of course, is to save lives and provide humanitarian assistance, at the request of the government of Pakistan, to the people that have been affected by this terrible natural disaster -- this historic flood that has occurred in Pakistan.

                As I’m sure you’re already aware, today we have 15 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopters and their crews conducting relief operations from Ghazi Air Base.  We have a number of other U.S. military efforts occurring in Pakistan, including delivering -- using C-130s, both Marine and Air Force, to deliver relief supplies in a variety of areas in Pakistan.  But my focus, this task force’s focus, is on the rotary-wing support that we are providing from Ghazi Air Base.

                Today we have four U.S. Marine CH-53-Echo Super Stallions, three U.S. Navy MH-53-Echo Sea Dragon helicopters and eight CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters.  We are being supported by two KC-130 Marine Corps aircraft that are providing logistics support in and out of Ghazi Air Base at our request and in coordination with the Pakistani military.  

                All told, we’ve got about 230 U.S. sailors, Marines, soldiers and airmen providing both the operational capability into the affected areas as well as necessary maintenance and support.  As of this date, we have delivered over 1 million pounds of relief supplies and recovered more than 6,000 people from flood-affected areas in northern Pakistan.  Our principal focus has been in an area known as the Swat valley in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but most recently we’ve also begun relief operations in an adjacent province known as Kohistan.

                Everything that we do here is done in partnership with Pakistani military units, Pakistani military aviation capabilities, and at the request of the government of Pakistan.

                Finally, I want to emphasize that this is a terrible disaster.  

                The -- while all we have seen is what we’ve been focused on here in the north, the damage in the Swat valley and adjacent areas is extensive, it is significant and it will take a great deal of time and effort to recover from.

                I think I’ll stop there and begin taking questions.

                COL. LAPAN:  Anne?

                Q     Hi, General.  Anne Gearan with the Associated Press.  Could you give us your view on to what extent the Pakistan military is being diverted from the counterterrorism fight by its role in flood relief, and what your concerns are going forward as to how much resource -- how many resources might continue to be diverted from that fight over time?

                GEN. NAGATA:  The question of to what extent resources or effort have been diverted from the ongoing counterinsurgency struggle here in Pakistan is a question best asked of the leadership of the Pakistan government and military.  

                What I am focused on, what the task force here is focused on, is partnering with those portions of the Pakistan army and military services that are working on flood relief.  They are showing great determination, great skill and great resolve in helping the affected people here.  To what degree it may have diverted them from the counterinsurgency fight here is something you’ll have to ask them.

                Q     But could I -- could I just follow up briefly, though?  I mean, that has been one of the primary areas of U.S. military cooperation and involvement with the Pakistan military before this happened.  I mean, it must be something that you all are discussing at least among yourselves.  I mean, is this -- it -- can you just provide from your perspective what you expect to happen over, you know, the next several months?  Are they going to -- are they going to be able to do what they’ve already told you that they would be able to do?

                GEN. NAGATA:  Well, all I can tell you is that in terms of historical perspective, as you’re probably well aware, the Pakistani military conducted a very effective and very successful military campaign in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province -- Swat valley being only one part of that province -- to clear it of militant presence. They’ve made a substantial progress in this province.  Of course, very sadly, they’ve now also been affected by this flood.  But the -- but the progress has been quite real here in terms of the security situation.  Now they are dealing with a new problem.  

                In terms of our engagement with Pakistani military leaders here, our mission in the Office of the Defense Representative is to provide security assistance to all the armed forces of Pakistan for their legitimate defense needs, including their counterinsurgency struggle here in Pakistan.  And we continue to do that at their request.

                Q     The United Nations today said that there are around 800,000 people who are not accessible; they can only be accessed through helicopters and other airlift means.  And they’re calling for 40 additional helicopters.  Do you have any idea where is this coming from?  Is U.S. supplying any other additional helicopters?

                GEN. NAGATA:  We have been steadily increasing the amount of United States military helicopters that are devoted to assisting the Pakistanis with flood relief.  We -- as you probably know, we initially started with eight helicopters that were provided by the United States Army from Afghanistan.  They operated here for our first two weeks of activities with the Pakistani aviation elements here. They have now been replaced by 15 U.S. Navy and Marine Corps helicopters.  We have plans under way to bring in additional helicopters in the first week of September -- four additional heavy-lift helicopters.  

                And there are ongoing discussions between our military leaders and military leaders here in Pakistan, about other requirements or other needs that they may wish us to fulfill.  But as of this time, I’m not aware of any new decisions that have been made.  

                Q     Examples of some other additional needs or -- (inaudible) -- that you’re discussing with the Pak authorities?  

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m sorry, I did not understand the question. 

                Q     Can you give -- what are the other needs that you’re discussing with the Pakistani authorities?  

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m afraid it’s just too garbled for me to hear you.  

                COL. LAPAN:  I’ll try here from the lectern.  The question is about what types of assistance are you discussing with the Pakistani authorities?  

                GEN. NAGATA:  Thank you.  

                The other types of assistance that are being discussed with Pakistani authorities is a question best asked to the United States Embassy here.  Obviously my focus, ODR-P’s focus, is on the U.S. military assistance that is partnered with Pakistani military elements here.  

                There are a broad range of conversations going on with many agencies of the United States government, through the United States Embassy, for different forms of assistance.  And they’re best positioned to answer that question.  

                Q     Hi.  Phil Stewart from Reuters.  

                I mean, clearly there’s more need in this crisis than there is ability to assist.  To what extent is this playing into the hands of the insurgents?  Are they using this -- are you hearing that they’re using this for propaganda means at all?  And to what extent are charities linked to groups like LeT providing assistance?  

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m sorry, sir.  It’s just too garbled for me to hear.    If whoever is at the other alternative microphone could, repeat the question.  

                COL. LAPAN:  Okay.  Give me -- one more time.

                Q     Yeah.  I’ll try and do it again.  But last part first:  To what extent are charities linked to insurgents providing assistance? And given the fact that the needs are greater than the ability of the United States or the Pakistanis to aid those affected, to what extent is this crisis playing into the rhetoric of insurgents?

                GEN. NAGATA:  I think I caught the last question, to what degree is this playing into the rhetoric of the insurgents.  I’ll try to answer that.  That is not our focus.  That is not something that I’m monitoring from here at Ghazi Air Base.  Frankly, that question is best asked of the Pakistani government and military authorities that are dealing with the insurgency here.

                I should stress that the counterinsurgency fight in Pakistan is the Pakistanis’ to make, and they have been waging it with great energy and great determination for several years now.  They are completely committed and have taken significant casualties in fighting militants in this country.

                But the degree to which this flood may have impacted the insurgency is something best answered by the Pakistani government.

                Q     Charities -- whether or not he’s seen charities --

                COL. LAPAN:  And, General, the other question was, some of the charities that are affiliated with some of the insurgent groups, are they out there providing aid, to your knowledge?

                GEN. NAGATA:  Yeah, my response, again, will be to ask the Pakistani government.  What non-governmental organizations, either domestic or international, may or may not be doing here is not something that I’m focused on.  It’s not part of my military mission nor of our military activities here.  That is a question best asked of the government of Pakistan.

                Q     Sir, Raghubir Goyal, Asia Today.  My question is that when you said that you have supplied almost one million pounds of supplies, what kind of supplies are these?  

                Are these include -- how much is food?  Because if you see on the ground, people are still crying for food help, not the many visits and many other supplies.

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m going to have to apologize again.  I simply cannot understand the question unless it’s provided by the alternative microphone.

                COL. LAPAN:  General, the question has to do with the more than 1 million pounds of supplies that U.S. forces have assisted with delivering.  Can you give us a breakdown of the types of things that are included?  The point being that there are a lot of needs for food, so in that million-plus pounds of supplies, how does that break down with food and other types of necessities?

                GEN. NAGATA:  Thank you.  That helps.

                I can only give you a general breakdown.  We have a warehouse -- I’m sorry, not a warehouse, a hangar here at Ghazi Air Base.  It’s a very large hangar that has been completely dedicated to storing relief supplies that we are flying into affected areas.  And there are other logistics hubs that the Pakistani army has set up in both Swat valley and in Kohistan for us to also pick up supplies from to deliver into the affected areas.  

                The bulk of what we are carrying are food items of various kinds. Most recently they appear to have been -- they appear to be bulk food items, bags of flour, those kinds of things.  

                The -- they come from a very, very diverse set of sources.  I have seen everything from World Food Program bulk items, food items, all the way to USAID and even domestic producers that are providing bulk food items that we are flying into the affected areas.

                That said, we are also delivering a substantial amount of nonfood items:  cooking utensils, portable water-filtration systems, various kinds of things like that, that fall into the category of equipment or other forms of supplies that are necessary to sustain a way of life there until other forms of assistance can get to them.

                So the short answer is both food and nonfood items that come from a very, very diverse set of both international and domestic providers.

                Q     One more, just quickly.  Now, after the food, there is -- there will be a health crisis, also.  What the U.S. Army think they are doing as far as health is concerned?  And also, at the same time, aid for the terrorists are taking any advantage in the name of flood?

                GEN. NAGATA:  Sorry, I’m going to have to ask the question to be repeated again.

                COL. LAPAN:  General, yeah, in going forward, just in the interest of time, I’ll have the reporters here relay their questions through me, since that seems to be working most efficiently.

                That follow-up question was regarding health needs and growing need in the way of health, and whether U.S. military support is following those lines.

                GEN. NAGATA:  Yes.  Thanks for the -- thanks for the clarification and the question.

                The -- we have not seen -- and as a matter of fact, I discussed this with some of the Pakistani military leaders here at Ghazi Air Base today.  We have not seen any substantial health problems here in northern Pakistan. I’m not saying there aren’t any that are related to the flood, but there has not been a significant surge in health-related activities.

                That is probably at least partially explained by the fact that because this is a fairly mountainous terrain and the watercourse as it moves south does effectively drain these areas, despite the nature of this flood, there’s not a great deal of standing water in the areas that we are flying in.

                There certainly is some, but it appears to be significantly less than what we are seeing in southern Pakistan, where there probably are -- there is probably a greater potential for health-related problems. But here we’re just not seeing much.

                And I should also say the Pakistanis have marshalled an impressive military medical capability, both here at Ghazi as well as in the affected areas, that is quite impressive, quite sizable and appears to be quite capable of handling whatever medical problems that may have emerged in the last three weeks here in northern Pakistan. But again, southern Pakistan may be different.

                COL. LAPAN:  Larry.

                Q     Two questions.  One, has the weather pattern changed?  Is the actual rain and the flooding beginning to subside?  Has it subsided completely?

                And second question, what kind of response, what kind of reaction, what kind of welcome are you getting from ordinary Pakistani civilians when you deliver aid?  I know part of the reason you’re doing this is to win hearts and minds.  Are you winning any?

                GEN. NAGATA:  Thanks for the question.  In terms of what we are seeing on the ground as we operate in both Swat valley and Kohistan, I think we have seed a -- seen a significant receding of the very significant watercourse that had developed in the immediate aftermath of the flood, although it is still significant; it is still significantly beyond what -- I’ll use the example of Swat valley -- it is still significantly beyond what we remember Swat -- Swat -- the Swat river valley looking like.  But that said, the waters have receded a -- to a significant degree.

                But what it also exposes is how much damage has been done. Previously, when we first began operating here, we saw this very, very broad ribbon of water up through the valley, and then the adjacent surviving infrastructure on its left and right.  

                As the water has receded, it’s become clearer how much of the -- of the crop-producing fields, how much of the road infrastructure, how much of the bridge infrastructure, how many buildings have been either damaged or destroyed by the flood.  

                They’re no longer masked by the significant spread of water that was once there.  But I want to be clear, there is still a very significant water course that is significantly larger than what was previously in the Swat river valley today, even though it has receded a significant amount.  

                On your second question on how we are being received, my impression, and I have flown up into Swat and into Kohistan on several occasions -- to watch our relief efforts alongside the Pakistanis’ play out -- I think the first thing I’ve noticed is that the Pakistani civilians that we are recovering from these areas or are receiving the relief supplies we are delivering, they are impressed.  

                They are impressed when they see Pakistani military service members and United States military service members working side by side often flying in the same helicopters, working together on these landing zones to haul the cargo off those -- out of those helicopters and to shepherd those civilians that need recovery back onto those helicopters, securing them, safeguarding them and taking them back, to return to their loved ones and to their homes or to be reunited with other members of their family.  

                So they’re -- I think they’re impressed.  Secondly, they’re grateful.  I have seen many occasions when these civilians have approached both the Pakistani military service members as well as our own -- pilots, crew chiefs, cargo handlers, you name it -- to express their gratitude, their thanks that someone has come to their assistance.  

                Q     You’re operating in parts of Pakistan that are violent and where security is an issue.  Two questions.  Have there been any attacks or attempted attacks on U.S. troops carrying out this relief mission?  And are you operating differently than you might have if you were in a place where security was not a concern?  Are you flying fewer missions?  Are they carrying more security personnel?  Are they armed, if they might not have been armed in other parts of the world?

                GEN. NAGATA:  On your first question, we have seen no security threat whatsoever in the three weeks we’ve been operating here.  But I should also say the Pakistani military -- specifically army aviation, as well as some of their ground forces -- have done a commendable job and a highly effective job in providing our force protection and security while we are here in Pakistan.  

                There is a significant security presence here at Ghazi Air Base. It is not intrusive; it doesn’t interfere with our work.  But it is clearly there, and the Pakistanis are clearly committed to our safety.

                Similarly, we have both some of their most experienced pilots flying with us when we do these relief missions, mostly because they understand these intricate valleys in the Swat river valley complex better than we do, but we also have some of their own security guards on our aircraft providing our close-in security.

                When we land at these various LZs where we deliver food or recover people, there are -- there is a very credible, very well organized, very disciplined Pakistani military presence there to do everything from crowd control to ensure that cargo and personnel are searched before they come aboard either Pakistani or U.S. helicopters, so nothing dangerous is brought on board, as well as just securing the general area to ensure there is no threat.

                The combination of the fact that this is a badly flood-affected area, the people there simply want help, and this very effective Pakistani military security effort has resulted in my being able to say we have simply had no reason to fear for our safety or our force protection since we arrived in Pakistan.

                On your second question of whether or not it’s altered our flying patterns or profiles, it has not.  We fly every day we can, weather permitting, with as many helicopters as we can, to get relief to people that are in need.

                COL. LAPAN:  Al.  Then we’ll go right here.

                Q     General, it’s Al Pessin from Voice of America.  I was in the small group that saw you about a month ago traveling with Admiral Mullen, and you seemed at that time quite confident that the Pakistanis would extend their military operation into new areas in the west.  And today you seem to be deflecting questions about that.  Why the change?

                GEN. NAGATA:  Well, my -- the change is that I have a different mission now. I have a different focus now.  My job for the last three weeks has been this aviation effort here in Ghazi, to provide support to the Pakistani people.  

                Am I still confident the Pakistanis will continue to wage a dedicated, committed struggle against violent extremism in Pakistan? Yes, I am.  Do I believe they will continue to aggressively pursue violent extremists in this country?  Yes, I do.

                Q     And did -- do you have any indication that the timing of that has been affected by the flood and the diversion of resources to flood relief?

                GEN. NAGATA:  I don’t know the answer to your question.  That is something you would have to ask the military and government leaders here in Pakistan.  My focus right now is solely this flood relief effort.

                COL. LAPAN:  (Off mike.)

                Q     How many times, sir, have you or your officers interacted with the local Pakistani journalists till now?

                GEN. NAGATA:  I think your question was about how often we’ve interacted with Pakistani journalists.  The answer is frequently.  

                We have had significant numbers of Pakistani print and television journalists visiting Ghazi.  They fly in our aircraft almost every single day, to go into these flood-affected areas.  They film and interview people, both on the landing zones and while we are in the midst of these operations, both Americans and Pakistani military service members.  And so the answer is frequently.  

                Q     General, I wonder, three weeks into this disaster with several weeks to go, are there any indications that there will be a more permanent U.S. military presence in this region you’re working on going forward?  

                Is this an opportunity for something like that?  That’s something the U.S. has wanted, more military access here.  Is there any indication from the Paks, or are there any plans in the U.S., to have some sort of permanent presence in that region either with, you know, long-term development aid or any other reason?  

                GEN. NAGATA:  Well, as I’m sure you know, we have a long-standing security assistance relationship with the military and government of Pakistan.  So we’ve had U.S. military service members here in Pakistan, in relatively small numbers, for many years.  And I expect that to continue, because the security assistance relationship is an important part of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship and will remain so as far as I can see.  

                But in terms of whether or not what we are doing here will extend or become something permanent, as you queried, my answer is that this flood-relief effort and the U.S. military capabilities that are dedicated to it will remain in Pakistan, so long as the government and military leadership of Pakistan ask us to be here.  

                We are only here for one purpose.  And that is to help people in need.  And once the government of Pakistan no longer needs our assistance with that, these assets will leave.  

                COL. LAPAN:  Luis.

                Q     General, you’re based up in the north and operating up in the north.  Is there any discussion of expanding your area of operations beyond that when these additional assets come next week? And where will the Kearsarge helicopters go when they arrive in mid- September?

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m sorry, I think I only heard the first part of your question.  I think it was about where we -- where else we might operate.  The only answer I can give you is we will operate wherever the Pakistani government and -- government and military authorities that asked us to come here designate for us.  They have right now designated the Swat river valley and the adjacent province of Kohistan.  If they determine that there are other areas that they require our assistance in, we will of course attempt to meet those needs.

                Q     (Off mike) -- the second part of the question was if you know where the aviation from the Kearsarge amphibious ready group will go when they arrive in September.

                GEN. NAGATA:  Okay, thank you.  That helps.  The first of four helicopters coming off the Kearsarge will actually come here to Ghazi. They are being built up, or at least a couple of them are being built up, in Afghanistan right now.  And I expect around the first week of the month they will fly here to Ghazi to begin operations here.

                Regarding other aviation assets that may be coming, those discussions are still under way between U.S. military and Pakistani military leaders, and I’m not aware of any decisions having been made yet.

                Q     General, as you know, Japan also is beginning their flood- relief efforts.  And I wanted to know whether the Japanese are working with the U.S. directly or just independently with the Pakistanis.

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m sorry, sir.  I caught the beginning and the end of your question, but I didn’t hear the substance of it in the middle.

                COL. LAPAN:  General, I’ll try again from here.  The Japanese have announced that they’re going to provide assistance to the flood relief effort.  Are they working with you and U.S. forces, or are they operating independently directly with the Pakistani military?

                GEN. NAGATA:  The basic answer is they are working directly with the Pakistani military.  That said, some of the government of Japan representatives here in Islamabad, in the capital, did ask us for some basic information about how we are operating here, which we were happy to provide to them.  This was several days ago now.  Hopefully, that will be of some value for them as they begin their operations here.

                But the direct answer, the short answer, is they are working directly with the military and government authorities of Pakistan.

                Q     Hi, General.  This is Courtney Kube, from NBC News.  Sort of along those same lines, you keep referencing this collegial working relationship between the U.S. and the Pakistani military.  Have any of your Pakistani counterparts expressed any frustration at the lack of additional international aid beyond just the United States, that other countries around the world aren’t coming forward with money, resources, any kind of relief efforts to the extent that the United States has?

                GEN. NAGATA:  Thanks for the question.  I must say that the pace of operations here is very, very high.  The days are very long, things are very hectic, because there is so much to do.  And these aviation operations into Swat valley and elsewhere are very time-consuming.  I have simply not had an opportunity; nor has anyone approached me from any echelon of the Pakistan military leadership here on the question you’re asking me.

                I can tell you that when we do have a time to reflect and discuss what is happening in this country, the conversation has been exclusively about how much work we still have to do together, how proud we are of what we have accomplished so far.  And from my Pakistani counterparts -- and I think this is true at every echelon of this task force -- they continually express to us how grateful they are that we came here so quickly and are assisting them and partnering with them as they try to get to people in need.

                Q     Are you at all personally frustrated that there hasn’t been more international assistance when you look at the size and scope of this humanitarian disaster that you’re facing?  

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m sorry.  I did not catch the substance of that.  

                Q     Let me try again.  Are you -- are you at all personally frustrated that as you look at the scope of this disaster, there isn’t more international assistance there helping?

                GEN. NAGATA:  I think you were asking for my personal view about the -- about this same question.  And if that’s the case, my personal view is this is a terrible tragedy.  This is a -- this is a historically bad natural disaster for the country of Pakistan that I would argue is going to take months to years to recover from.  And there are many people in need here, and both the government and nation of Pakistan, the United States and the rest of the international community are providing as much assistance as each of these individual actors can at the moment, and there’s simply much more yet to be done.

                COL. LAPAN:  Okay.

                Q     General, do you know if any decision has been made as to how long the Kearsarge and the Peleliu will be working together on this mission, or will the Peleliu leave when the Kearsarge arrives?

                GEN. NAGATA:  I think you were asking if -- as the Kearsarge assets come into Pakistan, whether the assets from the Peleliu will depart, I’m not aware of any such plans at the moment.  

                As far as I can tell, the assets that I currently have, which are from the Peleliu, will remain here in Pakistan to continue to do the mission they have been conducting for more than the last week.  The additional helicopters from the Kearsarge will be additive here at Ghazi.  And we will simply continue flying as many days as we can.  

                Q     General, over 30 countries have announced to help Pakistan in this crisis of floods, including India.  Are they all working with you or directly with the government of Pakistan or in between?  

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m sorry, sir, I just could not understand the question.  

                If somebody could, repeat it.  

                COL. LAPAN:  The question had to do with 30 countries providing assistance, to include India, and whether any of those countries’ militaries are working with your forces there.  

                GEN. NAGATA:  Thanks for the question and the clarification.  

                The only -- the only nation’s helicopter assets that are operating from Ghazi Air Base are U.S. military and Pakistani military rotary-wing assets and their crews and support personnel.  

                I am aware that other nations have been contributing helicopter support.  We’ve just discussed the contributions of the government of Japan.  But none of them are here.  None of them are operating with us in Ghazi.  They are obviously operating elsewhere.  

                Q     General, do you think you are in the worst-hit area?  If not, why not?  

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m sorry, could somebody please repeat it?  

                COL. LAPAN:  General, do you believe that you’re in -- you’re operating in the worst-hit areas?  And if not, why not?

                GEN. NAGATA:  I couldn’t make that judgment.  I have not seen all the flood-affected areas in Pakistan.  I have only seen what is -- what has -- what is in the aftermath of the flood in much of the Swat river valley and parts of the Kohistan area.  I could not speak to how it compares with other places in the country in terms of severity.

                COL. LAPAN:  Al.

                Q     General, it’s Al Pessin again.  Yesterday, the Commandant, General Conway, said there was an offer to fly the Kearsarge’s Ospreys ahead to get there before the ship, and that offer was turned down. Do you know why that was, if you have such a great need there?

                GEN. NAGATA:  I’m sorry, I’m going to have to ask that the question be repeated again.

                COL. LAPAN:  General Conway, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, was here yesterday and mentioned that there was an offer made for the V-22 Ospreys from the Kearsarge to be flown directly into country ahead of the ships, and if you had any insight as to why that decision was made, considering the need.

                GEN. NAGATA:  Again, I think the only answer I can give is what I know, and that is that there are -- there are ongoing discussions between U.S. military and Pakistani military leaders about other aviation assets that might be brought to bear here in Pakistan above and beyond what I have here at Ghazi.  But the course, direction, and outcome of those conversations I do not believe are settled yet.

                Q     Is there any lack of recognition or reluctance to ask for help on the part of the Pakistanis -- I mean, lack of recognition of the seriousness of the problem or reluctance to ask for more help that’s, perhaps, delaying some of these discussions about additional U.S. assets that could be brought to bear?

                GEN. NAGATA:  The assessments being made by the government of Pakistan are a question for the government of Pakistan, obviously.  I cannot speak for how they view, how they assess, or how they measure the enormity of this disaster.

                I can tell you, from everything that I see here at Ghazi, the military authorities that I deal with are clearly focused on the fact that this is a historically difficult time for them and that they must get to as many people in need as they possibly can on any given day. But again, the nation-wide assessment is something that is far beyond the scope of what we’re focused on here, and that is something the government of Pakistan can only do.

                COL. LAPAN:  Are we done?

                Okay, General, it looks like we’ve exhausted the questions on this end.  I’ll send it back to you, if you’d like to make any closing remarks.

                GEN. NAGATA:  Thank you.  And I apologize for how difficult this must have been with the audio difficulty.

                I would like to say one thing in closing.  I want to both acknowledge and express my profound respect for the efforts of the Pakistan military partners that we are working with here at Ghazi. This is only one small part of an -- of an effort by this country and by the international community to address a countrywide problem, but here at Ghazi in our operations in Swat valley and in Kohistan, the collaboration, the cooperation, the support, the protection and the friendship -- and I use that word very deliberately, the friendship -- that has been offered and extended to us by our Pakistani partners has been nothing but impressive.

                There is still much more to do here.  The amount of devastation that our partners here are confronted with is very significant, and it is going to take a very long time to deal with effectively.  But I must say and I will say that the partnership we are enjoying here is one of the best examples of combined collaboration between military partners that I have ever seen.  Thank you very much.

                COL. LAPAN:  General Nagata, thank you for giving us your time.  

                Copyright (c) 2010 by Federal News Service, Inc., Ste. 500 1000 Vermont Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20005, USA. Federal News Service is a private firm not affiliated with the federal government. No portion of this transcript may be copied, sold or retransmitted without the written authority of Federal News Service, Inc. Copyright is not claimed as to any part of the original work prepared by a United States government officer or employee as a part of that person’s official duties. For information on subscribing to the FNS Internet Service, please visit http://www.fednews.com or call (202) 347-1400.