ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Amid United Nations reports of lagging aid for the Pakistan floods, the United States is set to increase aid to Pakistan to $150 million following the worst disaster in the country’s history, Sen. John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts announced today.
Speaking from the Ghazi airforce base where American military aircraft are making deployments into flood-affected territory in the northwest, such as the Swat Valley, he stressed that the US did not wish to see extremists profiting from the disaster. “We don’t want additional jihadists, extremists coming out of a crisis,” he said.
So far, the US has provided approximately $90 million to support relief efforts; this includes funding for the Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority, the UN’s emergency relief plan, local and international organizations, according to a statement released by the US embassy.
Islamist groups such as the Jamat-ud-Dawa, linked to banned militant outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba have been very visible in their distribution aid to victims of the flooding, while the Pakistani Taliban is thought to have been behind at least two attacks against security forces in Peshawar since the crisis began.
Senator Kerry, who co-authored a $7.5 billion civilian aid bill to Pakistan and heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arrived in Pakistan late Wednesday and is set to meet the country’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and beleaguered President Asif Ali Zardari, today. He is the first high-ranking US politician to visit the region after the disaster struck.
His visit serves the dual purpose of demonstrating US commitment to a country that it views as vital to its regional strategic interests, and cajoling other nations into increasing their levels of aid as the UN holds an emergency meeting in New York to call for more international aid. So far, the UN says it has raised half of the $460 million requested.
A statement issued by the US embassy said there are currently 18 military and civilian aircraft in Pakistan and three based in Afghanistan in support of flood relief options. “US helicopters have evacuated 5912 people and delivered 717,713 pounds of relief supplies,” it said.
“The American aid is critical for two reasons: first because we haven’t seen a lot of international assistance coming in. Particularly the food items, helicopters, and tents are very critical at this time,” says Professor Rifaat Hussain, a strategic analyst at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University.
But, he continues: “It isn’t just the amount of aid that America is collecting – it’s the effect this will have on other countries. If the US is seen by other concerned countries as being in the lead then they will also join hands and come to the collective rescue of Pakistan.”