By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
May 19, 2009 - The United States has pledged more than $100 million worth of humanitarian aid to relieve Pakistan as it wages battle against extremists inside its borders, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said today. About 2 million Pakistanis are displaced as a result of clashes in the country's northwestern frontier province, and the U.S. Agency for International Development has responded by supplying water trucks, meals that conform to Islamic dietary requirements, tents and other relief.
"Providing this assistance is not only the right thing to do, but we believe it is essential to global security and the security of the United States," Clinton said at a White House briefing. "And we are prepared to do more as the situation demands."
Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell expressed support for Pakistan's efforts to stabilize its country, saying at a news conference that the Defense Department has encouraged Pakistan to undertake such actions.
"Do we think it's appropriate that military operations are under way in the [federally administered tribal areas] to go after terrorists who are trying to overthrow the democratically elected government of Pakistan?" he asked. "I think that this government is fully supportive of the Pakistani military's efforts to try to bring a level of stability and peace to their country. Absolutely.
"And now they are in the midst of what arguably is the largest military operation ever undertaken by the Pakistani military, and they have shown a persistence in waging it, and we want to be nothing but encouraging of them continuing to do so," he said.
Clinton said a U.S. disaster-assistance response team and American personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad are on the ground working with and supporting Pakistani authorities in evaluating needs for shelter, food, health, water and sanitation services.
U.S. AID's office of foreign disaster assistance has delivered 30,000 family relief kits, 5,000 tents, FM radios and generators to provide both light and water, she said.
The efforts reflect President Barack Obama's pledge to stand by Pakistan's people and the democratically elected government in Islamabad as it works to restore security, Clinton said.
"President Obama is determined to match our words with our actions, because Pakistan's government is leading the fight against extremists that threaten the future of their country and our collective security," she said.
The relief comes in addition to the nearly $60 million the United States has provided since August to help Pakistanis affected by the conflicts, and complements other funding the administration is seeking from Congress, Clinton said.
In an effort to invest in the Pakistani economy, Clinton said, a significant portion of the pledged food aid will go to buying local crops.
"We will work to create quick-impact job programs that will put Pakistanis to work making supplies that will help their countrymen who have been forced to flee the fighting," she said. "Our approach to the aid reflects our conviction that all Pakistanis have a stake in resolving this crisis."
The secretary of state added that Americans can donate to the relief effort in $5 increments by texting the word "SWAT" to the number 20222. Contributions will help the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees provide tents, clothing, food and medicine to those affected, she said.
"We're confident that, with respect to the humanitarian challenge, the people of Pakistan and their government, as well as the international community, can come together and forge not only the assistance that is needed, but stronger bonds for the years ahead," she said.