The Cable

U.S. envoy to Pakistan: We’re beating the extremists on flood relief

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson updated reporters Friday on U.S. relief efforts in Pakistan, which is currently besieged by heavy flooding. Patterson said that this year’s floods were the worst in 80 years and given the scale of flooding across the country, could be even more catastrophic than the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. Flooding ...

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U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne Patterson updated reporters Friday on U.S. relief efforts in Pakistan, which is currently besieged by heavy flooding.

Patterson said that this year’s floods were the worst in 80 years and given the scale of flooding across the country, could be even more catastrophic than the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir. Flooding has now killed more than 1,600 people and affected about 12 million people, mainly in the country’s northwestern regions.

U.S. efforts have been significant, including assistance from the armed forces in rescuing stranded civilians and airlifting supplies, including 436,000 halal meals, prefabricated steel bridges, and water-purification systems delivered over the past week. On Friday, most operations were hindered by additional bad weather. The U.S. Agency for International Development has committed $35 million for food, health care, and shelter for those displaced, supplementing existing programs for Pakistanis displaced by fighting in the Swat Valley.

With Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari embarked on a much-criticized trip to Europe, Patterson insisted that she was “not really concentrating on the overall political situation” in Pakistan and instead focusing on “saving lives and delivering supplies.” The U.S., she said, has a lot of experience working with disaster authorities in Pakistan and she has, thus far, been “very satisfied working with the government.” She noted that the U.S. efforts are entirely in response to specific Pakistani requests.

Asked about reports that NGOs associated with extremist groups are seeking to capitalize on the floods by providing relief services, Patterson said those efforts are “totally overcome” by the work done by “highly reputable” international and local NGOs, including the Pakistan Red Crescent Society. “We’re trying to get [these NGOs] money as quickly as possible,” she said.

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