Ceremony marks end of Pakistan flood relief operations

  • Published
  • By Jim Garamone
  • American Forces Press Service
U.S. troops supporting the humanitarian relief effort to flood-stricken Pakistan ended their mission Dec. 2.

Pakistani officials hosted a ceremony marking the occasion in Islamabad, the country's capital.

At the end of operations, 18 U.S. military helicopters and about 350 U.S. servicemembers were conducting airlift missions.

"This was not the beginning, and it was not the end," said Lt. Gen. Asif Yasin Malik, the commander of the Pakistan army's 11th Corps. "This is a continuation of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship."

At the effort's peak, the U.S. deployed 26 helicopters, multiple C-130 Hercules and C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft and several hundred servicemembers working in close partnership with Pakistani military forces. The floods affected more than 20 million people in Pakistan beginning in July.

"We have been honored to partner with the military forces of Pakistan to bring aid and comfort for those in need," said Army Brig. Gen. Michael Nagata, the deputy commander of Office of the Defense Representative to Pakistan and the deployed Task Force commander. "The support, camaraderie and spirit of cooperation and shared effort have been extraordinary."

U.S. officials stressed that while the military humanitarian effort is ending, the U.S. will continue financial relief. The U.S. government is providing more than $571 million to assist Pakistan with relief and recovery efforts for flood victims.

The Islamabad ceremony was a chance to thank the combined and joint task force of U.S. and Pakistani military and civilian aid agencies, which provided food, shelter and aerial evacuation for tens of thousands of Pakistanis affected by the floods.

American helicopters delivered humanitarian aid to villages cut off by the flooding of the Indus River. Helicopter crews also rescued more than 40,000 Pakistanis during the past five months of operations. Air Force C-130s and C-17 cargo aircraft delivered bulk goods to distribution sites around the country.

U.S. aircraft delivered more than 25 million pounds of relief supplies during the operation.

When the floods struck, Army helicopters from neighboring Afghanistan were among the first international aircraft on the scene. Marine helicopters from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Peleliu replaced the Army helicopters by the end of September. Helicopters from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit joined the effort in September.

Servicemembers involved with the U.S. military humanitarian effort worked closely with Pakistani military and civilian authorities to ensure the aid got to where it was needed, when it was needed, Defense Department officials said. Servicemembers also worked closely with international aid organizations to transport goods and people.

Unusually heavy monsoon rains triggered the floods through the Swat River Valley -- an area that was a key battleground against the Pakistani Taliban last year. Flooding proceeded downstream, spilling out of the country's tribal areas to its more populous provinces.

The effort now shifts to recovery and reconstruction, and U.S. embassy officials promised to help in the tasks that lie ahead.