By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 18, 2009 - The Defense Department is ready to send aid to help the internally displaced people in Pakistan, a senior official said today. Pakistan has requested the assistance, and that request is working through the State Department for validation, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
Once the Defense Department receives the request, Whitman said, the military will begin delivery. About 800,000 to 900,000 people are refugees inside Pakistan from the government's fight against the Taliban in the Swat Valley, Buner and Dir, according to Pakistani estimates.
"The Pakistanis could use some basic humanitarian assistance that the United States is prepared to provide," Whitman said.
These include packaged meals that conform with Islamic dietary requirements, water trucks and tents. "We're looking at providing assistance in those three categories, and potentially in other areas," Whitman said. "We'll be providing assistance in conjunction with what the Pakistan government says they can use and the means and methods that would be acceptable to them.
"We want to be there to help them," he continued. "We want to demonstrate that we are good partners." The United States is just one country that has offered help, Whitman added.
"We have been leaning forward since last week," Whitman said. "Once we understand the nature of the request, we'll be able to act on it fairly quickly, because we've been anticipating what some of the needs might be."
The military has done some pre-positioning and packaging to get ahead of the process.
"This is a dynamic situation, and over time, we may be able to assist in other ways, too," Whitman said.