U.S. is But a Bit Player in Pakistan’s Recovery

Not a lot of information has been coming out of Pakistan with what is said to be the nation’s worst disaster ever. The extensive flooding has left millions homeless. During a Bloggers’ Roundtable with Army Brig. Gen. Michael Nagata, deputy commander, Office of the Defense Representative, Pakistan, who is overseeing the U.S. portion of the international relief effort, emerging media moderator Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg went around the virtual roundtable.

Not just for bloggers, broadcast and print outlets like CNN and Stars and Stripes called in to the gathering. The group spanned time zones, but everyone was equal at this OSD-sponsored interview.

Nagata did not tell us much that was new, though four to five Marine helicopters (photos show CH-46s, releases say CH-53Es) from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit floating off the coast were replacing the Army helos currently working the disaster. Despite reports that Pakistan wants more assistance, none of the MEU’s ground units will be involved in the relief we were told. When pressed, Nagata further shared the Pakistani government had not requested the Marines.

Nagata went on to explain the U.S. is concentrating on Swat (no surprise since it is Taliban territory), though he implied U.S. assets had been active in other areas. In the five flyable days they’ve had, Nagata said the U.S. has delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds in relief supplies and rescued thousands of people.

Nagata’s PAO, Air Force Lt Col Patrick Ryder, was able to clarify what seemed to be fat stats for such a small force. The U.S. had airlifted 436,944 meals into Pakistan at the beginning of the effort, which may be the source of Nagata’s reference. As of August 12, 73,473 pounds of supplies had been delivered and 1,019 people rescued. Though Nagata seemed a bit scripted he appeared eager, honest and gracious. (What are a few hundred thousand pounds among friends?)

When I asked about interaction with the Taliban in Swat, the general was adamant there had been none and engagement was not the U.S. mission. (Whoa. It was just a question.) He could not heap enough praise on the Pakistani army and its work keeping U.S. personnel safe. Again, the U.S. has only a small role there and a couple of hundred people on the ground. (Got it.)

This was a good encounter, even if no new information was revealed. One did gain a feel for the U.S. role in the Pakistan relief effort. What was not said was, “This is Taliban World Headquarters, damn it! There are lots of hearts and minds to be won.”

Read the transcript and listen to the interview.

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